Dear Beloveds, we are gathered here because the Internet has discovered this:
@readplaysing Bayesian probability for babies by Chris Ferrie ❤️#baby #toddler #education #book #reading #play #singing #foryou #learn #fun #teacher #childhood
Bayesian probability for babies is something that actually exists. It is part of a collection which is actually called college baby, designed to introduce complex ideas to children aged 12-36 months, created and directed by physicist Chris Ferrie. Other titles in the series include Robotics for babies, Statistical physics for babies, rocket science for babies and… blockchain for babies. And no, this collection is absolutely serious, it’s not one of those fun gifts you can give your friends at a baby shower. Also, I couldn’t tell you if they explain the difference between solid and liquid propellant with marshmallows in the rocket science one.
It’s not often something that comes to me where I can actually practice two of the three things I studied for: publishing and teaching. So imagine how happy I was to find something I could dissect right in the middle of my professional Venn diagram. I mean, there are a lot of intersections between education and publishing, but it’s not often that you find the ones you can laugh at. Because those kind of books are nothing but a waste of money.
Remember those Baby Einstein product lines, supposed to turn babies into geniuses through…DVDs and toys that play Mozart, I guess? Well, they’re still there, but their whole selling point turned out to be what you call the educational equivalent of snake oil, even though the intentions were in the right place. To be fair, I think the same applies here. In a world and in the United States where every fascist influencer has been allowed to publish children’s books, anything done to promote science to children is actually a way to stem this flood of climate deniers and LGTBQ+. But the problem is that the people behind this Baby University line are geniuses in their fields, but not educators.
And in full disclosure, I only specialize in teaching teenagers and up, know nothing about early childhood development, and have less skill with children than Queen Elizabeth did with Prince Charles. Nevertheless, I know for a fact that toddlers are incapable of understanding theoretical physics, even if explained with pastry, because their brains are literally not developed to process higher order abstraction and analysis. . Learning complex notions requires a scaffolded construction (#terminologynamedrop) of knowledge in relation to the biological and social interactions that children make with their environment, something, something from the zone of proximal development, something, something this book will only make toddlers hungry for candy covered cookies.
These types of books were not designed for children; they were made for parents. And not just any kind of parent. The Billy Riggins of the world wouldn’t know what to do with it. These books are made by and for college-educated, economically stable upper-middle-class parents. This is all quite a feat in these times of late capitalism, so of course they are being reasonable in their unreasonable anxiety. They have come so far in life, how can they feel reassured that their little vessels of expectations will inherit their hard-earned cultural capital, and above all, their real economic capital? How can they make sure they aren’t cursed with the worst thing that can happen to upwardly mobile families: artistically inclined kids? Why use variations of behaviorist theories that are totally not obsolete at all and try to put them on the road to engineering or something like that. Ultimately, they are one of the many ways these parents are trying not to admit something: that two-thirds of their children’s development depends on professionals they know are underpaid and despise: creepy teachers.
The publishing industry is always attentive and sensitive to this type of parent, not only because they have disposable income, but because they buy books. en masse if that helps. They will buy just about anything that puts their children on the same life trajectory. If it doesn’t work, who cares? It’s better to spend a lot on their early education before you end up in a Lori Loughlin situation when the runts turn 18. If there’s any benefit, at least these books compel parents to take time and read to their children.
As usual, in a sea of STEM content for kids and babies, there’s next to nothing for “soft science” or arts and humanities. Will any publisher have the balls to make a baby social science collection, with titles like “Marxist Theory of History for Babies”, “Keynesian Economics for Babies”, “Vygostky’s Socio-Cultural Cognitive Development for babies” (we get a meta) or “Luhman’s systems theory for babies”. How are they more complex than the damn blockchain?
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Header image source: Publication of source books