Thursday, February 01, 2007

Baby Einstein's founder replies, and Timothy Noah has the last word

Timothy Noah responds to Baby Einstein Founder Julie Aigner-Clark, who wrote to object to his critique of President Bush's shout-out to her at the State of the Union. Her non-denial denial attempts to change the subject by bragging about her charitable contributions and attempting to distance herself from "Baby DaVinci," which she says was produced after she left the company.

He points out that she appears on Baby Einstein's website and on its behalf, including at the SotU itself, and has not attempted to distance herself from any of its products. And that the name itself is deceptive, suggesting there is an educational component not supported by any research.

But you didn't market these videos under the brand name Baby Hypnotize or Baby Chloroform. You marketed them under the name Baby Einstein. That's deceptive...And in what sense can a video really "teach" an infant anything? What evidence do you have that anything is being learned, other than an early attachment to the TV screen?

Aigner-Clark ends her letter by telling him she was raised a Democrat. Noah's response is exactly right:
You may have been raised a Democrat, but you are now being used by Republicans. Don't mistake the president's mentioning you in his speech as anything other than condescension—a condescension of which Democrats are equally capable. If President Bush cared at all about the issue of child development, then someone on his staff would have taken the five minutes necessary to discover that prominent medical professionals consider the business you founded to be a scam. (For that matter, if President Bush cared at all about the issue of early child development, then he wouldn't have let Head Start funding lie flat during the past five years. But that's another story.) The White House's choosing to spotlight your accomplishment was surely meant to demonstrate its commitment to children, to families, and to all those other womanly good feelings it fears that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D., Calif., taps into with female voters. But in failing to perform even rudimentary research on what it is Baby Einstein actually does, the White House ended up demonstrating the precise opposite.

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