Monday, May 21, 2007

We Don't Need No Education

I'm not the only person tired of the emphasis on "educational" toys and TV etc. People have been writing about this lately in the media, and no doubt the debates will rage on, just as they did when Crabgrandmommy was a Crabmom—with one bunch of moms hell-bent on educating the tots and the other mommy-team lying on deck chairs smoking fags and telling the kids to "run along and play."

So I'm not the only one bugged by the very self-conscious focus on early "learning." But what Crabmommy doesn't wish to add her two cents to this topic? I have decided to make a mini column out of it. Every month or so I will be mocking some educational toy, or a striving parent begging his kid to say "agua" instead of "water," or a pesky pediatrician/librarian repeating the line I have come to find highly annoying: "Read to your children."

Are you reading to your children?
Make sure you read to them every day!
Read to them in Spanish!

Reading. Really? I never thought of that!

Okay, so here's my first target:


Making fun of BE is about as challenging as shooting fish in a barrel, but this is my blog so I'm gonna do it. In fact, I have enough material for a whole column entirely devoted to the mocking of Baby E. But I'll try to keep it short and sweet.

For those of you in Souf-Effrica or the UK or some highly civilized place where you are not subjected to BE from baby's birth (is there even such a place anymore?), this is a highly irksome show geared to make tots watch TV as early as poss. It is the brainchild of a very tanned and completely bugging chick called Julie Figgerton-Whilliker or somesuch double-barreled thing.

Now Julie F-W is quite stupid-seeming, or as we say in my homeland of SA—lank dof—and she is also just nutty about high culture and committed to force-feeding Michelangelo and Monet and Tchaikovsky down the minute tracheae of our tots. And because we are such suckers for educational TV (oxymoron, anyone?), and because yes I admit it, the tots seem to dig these stupid programs, we have made Julie Schickerton-Doohicky a multi-millionnaire.

* She is very careful in the BE fine print to make no claims to improving the intelligence of your child via BE, yet it doesn't take a genius to infer that Baby Einstein is precisely designed to tap into your striving parental impulse to beef up Quinn's brainpower. (I assume the fine print protects Julie from litigation in case Quinn doesn't make it into the Harvard of all preschools?)

* I can't take her voice-over on that show. When using a big vocabulary word or having her little wanker characters clap hands to Shostakovich, she speaks in this trembly voice—the kind of voice that has a smile in it—a voice tremulous with the delight or fragile wonder of it all. A voice like she is making a discovery. Like she has just found a new tomb. Makes me want to vomit in my socks.

* It's bad enough that the tots get taught lullabies in Mandarin and Czech. But Julie outdoes herself in the following particularly offensive episode:

Jules is teaching the kids the word "home." and she says it with her customary love and delight and wonder. Home. Home! But then there are images accompanying that word. And what are those homes? Nothing but palatial Victorian brownstones, Cape Cod farmhouses, New England Colonial manses...Platonic ideals of home, complete with dorky dads frolicking with gaggles of kids in hammocks, or airplane-ing infant on the abundant golf-course field of lawn that surrounds home.

So, "Home" is a mansion, eh? Not a log cabin? Or a trailer, Jules. Not even an apartment? Nothing less than $1 mill, eh? Not even a cool bungalow? Or a prefab? Even one from Dwell magazine? Julie needs to travel and see some homes. She can come to my humble abode. Or cross the street to the cowboy-infested compound you readers have all come to know and love.

Home. Home! And there's Marlee Matlin furiously sign-languaging the word. I have a sign for you, Julie. (And unlike American Sign Language, it's universally understood.)

*Last, the sign language itself: I hate to break it to you, but having Children of a Lesser God up there teaching your kid a spot of ASL isn't going to make your tot some kind of linguistic genius or friend of the the Deaf. Once upon a time I spent many months trying to learn ASL and since I speak a reasonable second-language French, it's reasonable to assume I might be able to sign a tad after a bunch of classes. But this Deaf thing, it's a little harder than Jules wants you to know. It is 1000 times harder than French, Mandarin, or Czech. Yet Jules makes it seem like the Deaf are just a bunch of mimes. And that your kid can be a mime too! What a crock!

There is one thing I gotta say I admire her for: she's managed to convince us that watching TV will make our kids smarter.

Now that's genius!

For more rantings and even a mention of Julie, check out today's new post at my Cookie bloglet.


grunnio corocotta said...

Yes. yes it is too easy to make fun of Baby Einstein. But that doesn't make me not really, really wish I had thought of it first. $$$

Karen Stead Baigrie said...

Oh yes, Home is my all time worst BE but I admit that we have now graduated (and I can't believe I bought all 3 of the dvds that target had in stock) to Junior Einstein. My beloved pre-schooler has fallen for them hook line and sinker and slaps his hands on his knees, shouting "blast off" and whatever else they tell him too.

The worst of this is that I rushed out and bought JE after a friends child id'd a piece of classical music as "einstein music" after watching them. I felt such a failure of a mother I bought them for my cherub at the next possible opportunity. Score on more for Julie (and Dysney who she sold BE to...).

Anonymous said...


And when our children one day simultaneously (spell?) get up and march off together in a trance we can blame Baby Einstein. I am convinced there are hidden messages brainwashing our children in those DVDs.

There is a close up of a doll (I think the language DVD) that scares the crap out of most children - The devil doll.

Anonymous said...

As I read this, I could actually hear dear Julie's voice in my head. I used to keep a tv on in the baby's room for "white noise" and constant dim light, so I wouldn't have to turn a light on for those nighttime feedings. I ended up using a "Baby Mozart" DVD and had it on replay. I heard her voice in my DREAMS....actually, it was across the hall, every thirty minutes, all night long.

Just hearing her voice makes me feel that "newborn's mommy fatigue" and makes my milk want to let down!

Crabmommy said...

In fairness, maybe I too would speak with a smile -- as though barely concealing the wonder in my voice -- if I had just made a bazillion dollars out of the rest of us. I call Julie stupid but who's the one earning $2/mo. from Google? Yeah...Jules gets the last laugh there. But at least I don't have her hairstyle!

Anonymous said...

um, ok, let the mudslinging begin but the whole ASL thing TOTALLY helped me with my son who didn't speak until he was 2 1/2. It was tremendously helpful in trying to understand what he wanted.

I don't know that it made him smarter , but it certainly helped me to stay sane through those years.

Anonymous said...

I think you are just jealous of Julie. I certainly am. Hell if I could come up with a billion dollar idea and then sell it to Disney and live the rest of my days in the lap of luxury then I would do it! Sorry Crabmommy but BE isnt that bad. It keeps the kids quiet after being whined at all day long.
Her voice is VERY annoying and I assumed that she was blonde and perky before I even saw her. At least they display some cool toys in the dvds.
I would have to say that BARNEY is the devil and must be killed. There is no BARNEY in my house. I hate that f-ing pansy dinosaur!!

Crabmommy said...

appleonastick: I don't mean to knock ASL or even the learning of it by babies. Just the precious way in which people like Julie market "learning" to us. The whole pushiness of language instruction from ASL to the notion that saying "quiero milk?" to a kid means she's going to inhale Spanish like the air she breathes. Rub-bish.

Look, people, I am not immune to the pull of language teaching to kids. Heck, some of my best friends are Spanish! And if there were a bilingual immersion school in C-town, you can bet your bottom dollar C-tot would be shoved right in. Because I think having a second language is hugely important for anyone who can get it and getting it when young is to obvious advantage. But the way in which it's done I have strong opinions on. Falsely suggesting that sign language is something simple to teach to kids and will give them an "edge" -- that's the BS that BE taps into. Ditto all this nonsense where kids learn to count in Spanish and watch Dora or something and the parents think they will end up speaking Spanish. Sorry. Doesn't work that way.

That said, I can see how a few signs in ASL might be useful to a kid who won't/can't speak. Deaf infants can sign for milk at 6 months -- hearing kids take longer to "speak" because the vocal chords aren't as I have heard and I am not disputing it. It's fascinating. I have also heard that teaching hearing kids to sign delays speech. That may be BS, I don't know. I DO see how it can be helpful to have signing when you want to communicate with someone who CANNOT communicate otherwise. It's these bugging parents whose kid is saying "wa-wa" and making himself understood but then Mom is desperately saying "agua?" or signing it. These people bug the Crabmommy. Give me a break...

As for being jealous of Julie. You're right, anonymous. Like I said, it's her hair. And the shekels she's raked in. I like me some shekels.

People, I am a hypocrite. How often do I need to say this. Crabtot had BE when she was young. It seemed to zone her out, stun her colickyness into silence. I immediately bought more. To dumb her down, not smarten her up. I think THAT'S what they're good for.:) said...

Go for it crabby, you're such a b... well you know!

I have to say I agree in the most part.

I think the best toys are the ones that teach kids to entertain themselves, not tune out! Really!

It's not Julie though, it's all the parents out there who want their kids to be smarter and faster than yours or mine and everyone else's. Genius Julie has everyone buying into this "perfect parenting" crap that is nearly impossible to attain.

Nicole said...

This post is hilarious, and you've hit the nail right on the head.


Anonymous said...

Ca c'etait vraiment drole vos commentaires sur BE! Un gros merci pour m'avoir fait rire comme ca. Il y a un site que j'aimerais vous montrez, si vous pouvez, envoyer moi un couriel. C'est un produit que j'aimerais vous envoyer. Keep up the funny stories, you're the best!

Crabmommy said...

Je vous remercier pour les mots si gentils. PEOPLE, ARE YOU READING THIS? I AM SPEAKING FRENCH! whoo! What a rush. Malheureusement, j'ai oublie presque tout que j'ai appris a l'universite. (Which means, English-peeps, basically the French buck stops there. And that's about it). But thank you for visiting me, Lucie. Tell those frenchies to come and lire Crabmommy. Je vous envoie un couriel prive toute de suite.

RK said...

This is hilarious, and the venom just adds to it, making it real, rather than manufactured comedy.

Helen said...

There is one thing I gotta say I admire her for: she's managed to convince us that watching TV will make our kids smarter."

Both her and Elmo! LMFAO!