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Audio: Stuart Shanker on how edutainment is changing the way children learn

Audio: Stuart Shanker on how edutainment is changing the way children learn

Stuart Shanker, Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology and Philosophy in the Faculty of Health and director of the Milton & Ethel Harris Research Initiative, was featured on "The Hurried Infant," an audio documentary that ran on CBC's Ideas program April 22 and 23, 2010.

The message? Mozart, and indeed any classical music will stimulate the infant brain. Science says it’s so. Soon, other brain enrichment practices were encouraged. Parents were told to set up black and white squares around baby’s crib, this will enhance visual development. A multi-textured blanket will provide sensory stimulation.In the past 10 years though, the brain claims have intensified, fuelled by commercial forces. It’s called “edutainment”, the multi-billion dollar educational toy market has products designed to accelerate an infant’s growth with names like: Baby Einstein, Brainy Baby, Jumpstart Baby, Baby Genius.

Part of what’s fuelling the billion dollar baby is brain science. Studies over the decades claim that baby’s brain is a vast resource that can be enriched through stimulation. So a young child can learn colours, count and even read earlier than ever before. The explosive growth of baby learning products has sent parents scrambling to ensure their baby is as bright as bright can be. So, are the scientific studies behind this social force real or exaggerated? In this series, Ideas producer Mary O’Connell explores what some are calling a brave new age of infant determinism.

Shanker's segment begins at the 8:30 mark of Part I. His commentary on his concerns about how edutainment products are changing the way children learn continues throughout the program.

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer.