Wednesday, December 22, 2010

ABC’s Ad Nauseum, 123’s to Infinity

When The Prude was in her childbearing years, mothers were encouraged to communicate with their as-yet-unborn children, preferably by singing and making melody, to give the developing baby’s intelligence a head start.  Realizing that a tone deaf mother singing off-key to her expected child could have long term and adverse effects on that child, The Prude contented herself with talking to her tummy. Mostly she begged, “Don’t hurt me.”

Today parents are encouraged to begin educating a child immediately at birth, on the assumption that 9 months of in utero music lessons has produced an infant with the reasoning ability of a 4-year-old born in the ignorant 1950’s.

What kind of a world does this precocious little one find awaiting her?
One saturated with letters and numbers. In her crib baby looks up at a mobile with an alphabet blinking in time to Brahm’s Lullaby. Her crib sheet is printed with numerals 1-9.  Letters cover her sleeper and numbers dance across her diaper.

Benevolent toy makers join the chorus. Combining the ‘sing to smarten baby’ theory with ‘your baby can read before he walks’ , toys sing the alphabet to baby and croon numbers in his little ear.

Behold the children’s book section of your library or bookstore: thousands- nay, tens of thousands of ABC and/or 123 books.

Can baby escape to television? Everyone from singing rodents to crazed Elmos to evil geniuses are committed to teach baby reading and arithmetic.  There is no refuge in food - their pasta, their cereal, their cut-out cookies all surround our besieged little ones in shapes of numbers and letters.

The Prude is afraid. Knowing, as a human, what human nature is like, she realizes that too much of any good thing turns children into little rebels with heartburn. She pictures future generations of children who, upon seeing any of those 26 letters, run to the restroom in a fit of nausea. Children who scribble out the numbers on their clothing, linoleum, snack food and gym equipment in a frenzy of reverse-graffitism.

Could we be creating a society of people who would rather count on their fingers and toes than use the base 10 number system? Will they attempt to resurrect Ancient Sanskrit in a violent reaction to singing, dancing letters of the alphabet?

Parents, The Prude understands your desire for intelligent children. She begs you however, to exercise some balanced restraint. Because if the alphabet revolution comes too soon, she may have to learn Sanskrit to communicate with her grandchildren.


Wallydraigle said...

For a second, I thought maybe Grace was your guest poster. She makes us sing the ABCs eight thousand times a day. I will be very happy if she suddenly loses all interest in letters.

But I don't think kids are getting any smarter. Grace can "count" to 20 (skipping 10, 15 and 17 EVERY time, and then saying, "nineteen, twenty, twenty, twenty..."), but counting actual things is where her brainpower stops. She counts everything at least twice, and then adds a few more for good measure. Last night, Jeremy was reading a counting book she got for Christmas. "Grace, how many bunnies are there?" "Cookie!"

Yeah, no danger here.

The Prude said...

Wally, I have met your children and know their parents.
It would take a concerted effort and several years in solitary confinement for them to NOT be mini- Supersmarts.