Sunday, October 25, 2009

Shock! Baby Einstein not educational

Bigger shock! Disney agrees and will refund any DVD purchases for the last five years! They had dropped claims these were "educational" but apparently that wasn't enough.

Well that doesn't help me too much. From 1998 to 2001, we must have purchased a ton of Baby Einstein DVDs and CDs, board books, toys (and maybe even videos). Our kids loved them and I loved the fact that the marketing was so cynically directed at the nervous (if I don't act the kids will suffer) yet optimistic (they could be Einstein) parent. The educational claims didn't motivate me. Indeed, similar claims seem to surround all kids toys and there is an entire campaign directed at selling books based on educational value.

Actually, there is a deeper point here: it seems to me that educational claims abound but only certain ones get scrutiny. For instance, the NYT's article on this news ends with:
“My impression is that parents really believe these videos are good for their children, or at the very least, not really bad for them,” Ms. Rideout said. “To me, the most important thing is reminding parents that getting down on the floor to play with children is the most educational thing they can do.”
Is it? Really? Getting on the floor and playing is the "most educational thing" a parent can do? This comes from the Kaiser Family Foundation. But where is the evidence for that bold claim? Looking at their site, there is a lot of statistics about children doing different things than they did in the past (including substituting TV for reading) but surely we cannot presume that various other things are "educational" any more than we can presume that DVDs might not be. A lack of evidence is always a lack of evidence.