Friday, October 30, 2009

The startling news about Baby Einstein

Well, I was shocked, I tell you. Just shocked when I read the news about the Baby Einstein products. Turns out, buying the videos, now DVDs, and then plopping your baby or toddler down in front of them for a couple of hours does not automatically grant them a waiver from submitting an essay along with their applications to The Ivy League. (I thought perhaps there was a box to check on those admission forms that confirmed: Yes, I watched and enjoyed thoroughly all the Baby Einstein videos by the age of 26 months.)

That sounds a ridiculous, I know, but it’s no more ridiculous than the idea that watching videos of any kind will improve your child’s I.Q.

Before I go much further, I’m not some kind of “no television ever!!” parent. I remember enjoying many moments of sanity that came in 30-minute increments, courtesy of Disney’s Sing-Along-Songs videos. Those video compilations of Disney’s greatest hits, with the lyrics accompanying each song on the screen, entertained my kids many times. The words on the screen were simply an added bonus; at no time did I ever imagine that these videos were also teaching the boys to read. Not once.

I have to congratulate the marketing team here. If you want to lure parents into the making quintessential purchase that will benefit your child, how do you go wrong if you evoke the Einstein name? Who doesn’t want a baby Einstein?

Turns out, nearly everyone does. At least among the enlightened parents who want “in” on the latest thing that will elevate their progeny to the rarified air we call “gifted” or “advanced” or whatever title we affix to special children who are somehow quantified as more intelligent than their peers by the age of six. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? The headline we should all take away from this is that, sorry, not everyone is intellectually superior and you can’t train someone to be.

There’s a reason that an entire culture connects with that name, and exactly why the title of this series was so brilliant. Einstein was a genius who comes along maybe once in a generation. The very name itself represents a phenomenon, an anomaly, something we won’t see again for perhaps decades. According to Wikipedia (not my favorite source but it was more concise than most), the recap of Einstein’s career included these contributions to physics: the special and general theories of relativity, the founding of relativistic cosmology, the first post-Newtonian expansion, explaining the perihelion advance of Mercury, prediction of the deflection of light by gravity and gravitational lensing, the first fluctuation dissipation theorem which explained the Brownian movement of molecules, the photon theory and wave-particle duality, the quantum theory of atomic motion in solids, the zero-point energy concept, the semi classical version of the Schrödinger equation, and the quantum theory of a monatomic gas which predicted Bose-Einstein condensation.

Got that? I also learned that Einstein never wore socks, was basically a slovenly dresser, didn’t like games like Scrabble that made you “think,” and was a horrible speller. Okay, fire up the DVD and let’s go! Your child is just six disks away from being a genius!

All I know is I must have some money coming to me from various exercise gurus and trainers. I bought their videos and did the workout exactly as they proscribed for weeks and weeks. I wanted to ‘hit the spot’ or get various body parts ‘of steel’…I wanted it all. Guess what? I don’t have rock hard abs or killer arms. Class action lawsuit, right? Anyone want in?

It’s called marketing, folks. It’s advertising. It’s putting the right name on the right product for the right audience at the right time. You can’t go wrong. Baby Einstein worked for these reasons and more. But now you can get your money back for up to 4 DVDs, purchased between June 2004 and September 2009. For the record, Baby Einstein notes that this is simply an extension of a refund policy that has always been in place, mostly to publicly address an attack by a vengeful consumer. You can read their statement here.

Look, I’m not opposed to video entertainment for children. I’m not even opposed to video edu-tainment (cringe). I am opposed to parents who view some videos as more equal than others, and then feel somehow misled when they find out that sometimes a DVD is just a DVD. Entertaining, enjoyable, fun, light-hearted and yes, enthralling, even for just 30 minutes.

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