January 26, 2007

The State Of The Union Is: Baby Einsteinian

I've been trying to cut down on my GWB:WTF?? Moments for '07, so I didn't know until just now that the State of the Union address included this giant WTF, a salute to Our American Hero, Julie Aigner-Clark--the founder of Baby Einstein.

The confluence of dubious claims based on dubious science; the simultaneous exploitation of peoples' good intentions, ignorance, and fear; and selling out to corporate giants was, I guess, a slam dunk. That, and her husband gave five grand to the GOP in 2004.

Smarter people than I have already written about the giant Disney product placement, and about the bogus-at-best claims of the Baby Edutainment Complex [hey, nice!] so I'll just point to a few of them and let you have at it.

Frankly, I wonder if Aigner-Clark was even the best exemplar of Bush's own criteria of American Hero-ness [i.e., make mad bank by selling useless educational product business to conglomerate]? After all, Baby Einstein only netted her $25 million.

What about Randy Best, who sold his company, Voyager Learning, which makes one of the only remedial testing systems authorized under the No Child Left Behind Act, to ProQuest for $380 million? Doesn't have quite the brand recognition of Disney, I know, but still, Best is a Bush Pioneer, so it's not as if the White House didn't know about his patriotic achievement.

And then there's the patriotism right across the Thanksgiving table. Neil Bush's company Ignite! Learning sells equally worthless edutainment products to schools, who use NCLB grants to buy them. So far, he's raised at least $23 million from outside investors in Kuwait, China and Russia, which means Ignite! has to have a valuation at least 3-4x that of Baby Einstein. And yet, no Neil Bush mentions at all. Color me red, white, and confused.

Bush's Baby Einstein Gaffe by Timothy Noah [slate]
President Bush's SOTU Address ignores science at your children's peril [pobronson.com]
Extreme Parenting, The Atlantic Monthly 8/06 [alissaquart.com]


I thought you might enjoy this from Marketplace on NPR on Friday. It expresses the same thoughts you do but in a slightly different light (relative to the war in Iraq).

[liberal hippies, I love'em. Meanwhile, 80% of the parents who grew up watching Sesame Street themselves pause their Tivo'd episode of American Idol just long enough to go, "What? I grew up watching television and look how I turned out!" -ed.]

Personally, I love Baby Einstein. Why? Because they practically guarantee that my kid, who barely watched any TV until after she turned 2, will have a longer attention span than the 90% of kids who did watch that crap... :)

(I'd also like to take this moment to thank parents who take their kids to McDonalds all the time for assuring my kid's future spot on whatever sports team she tries out for.)

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