A Disney-related setback for e-learning?

| October 25, 2009

“If you’ve spent money on an e-learning course in the last five years, you’re entitled to a full refund. We now admit that our courses don’t make you any smarter.”

OK, no one has said that yet, but if you’ve seen the recent news, then you know that Walt Disney has taken the bold step of responding to the threat of a class action lawsuit by offering refunds for “educational” materials sold in recent years – Baby Einstein videos.

“The Walt Disney Company’s entire Baby Einstein marketing regime is based on express and implied claims that their videos are educational and beneficial for early childhood development,” a letter from the lawyers said, calling those claims “false because research shows that television viewing is potentially harmful for very young children.”

Of course the real danger isn’t the degradation of a young child’s vision from frequent and extended use of the television. The problem seems to be about “fostering parent-child interaction.”

Having seen Baby Einstein material, I am somewhat shocked that Disney has acquiesced to removing the label “educational” from these products… it seems to acknowledge that products so labeled would literally have to raise a child’s IQ. Doesn’t that seem like a pretty tough new standard for education? (One that, perhaps, most “educational” products would have difficulty achieving? At least it would prove to be a new, hard-to-prove evaluative standard…)

But even more interesting, I think, is the apparent agreement that the videos are more or less worthless as learning tools – that you might as well turn off the tv and talk with your child. Could it be that this same outcome will be demonstrated all the way up the educational food chain?