I like classical music. Not as much as I like Rod Stewart classics, mind you, but well enough.
But I never bought into the notion, prevalent throughout my four children's babyhood, that there was a small window of time to really shape a baby's brain. And that flooding that brain with Mozart or other classical music during those years was one key way to make a baby smarter. That understanding was based on "research" in the 1990s that just always seemed ... a little too easy to me.
Though apparently not to a lot of people. In the late 1990s, then-Gov. Zell Miller mandated that every new baby leaving a Georgia hospital be given a classical-music CD.
He said, "Listening to music at a very early age affects the spatial-temporal reasoning that underlies math and engineering and even chess."
Really? States started pouring millions into baby education and resources, with the hope that reaching babies in the first months and years of life would help them do better in school later on. Whole companies developed "brainy baby" products that teased parents out of untold amounts of money in the belief that just the right educational toy, CD or gadget in those all-important first three years of life would give their baby that all-important leg up on ... everything.
Well, finally somebody is showing a little smarts here after all. Sara Mead, a senior analyst at Education Sector, an education-policy think tank based in Washington, released her analysis this week, "Million Dollar Babies: Why Infants Can't be Hardwired for Success."
Mead writes that "there's a problem ... with the new conventional wisdom about building brighter babies: it's based on misinterpretations and misapplications of brain research."
She points out that the real evidence is that there's no magic "brain development window" that closes after the first three years of life. That, in fact, focusing on that "magic" window may let us parents and our communities off the hook later on when what we do for our kids really matters. And so, for instance, she recounts director _ and so-called child advocate _ Rob Reiner arguing: "If we're going to have a real impact on societal ills _ crime, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, welfare _ we're going to have to focus in on the first three years of life. It's problem-solving through the prism of zero to three."
Like I said, some folks sure want it to be easy.