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'Bayesian Probability For Babies' (And Other Books You Can Sell To Anxious Professional Parents)

By Alberto Cox Délano | Miscellaneous | July 28, 2022 |

By Alberto Cox Délano | Miscellaneous | July 28, 2022 |


Dearly beloved, we are gathered here because the internet discovered this:

@readplaysing Bayesian Probability for Babies by Chris Ferrie ❤️#baby #toddler #education #book #reading #play #singing #foryou #learn #fun #teacher #childhood ♬ original sound - readplaysing

Bayesian Probability for Babies is a thing that actually exists. It’s part of a collection that is actually called Baby University, designed to introduce complex ideas to children aged 12 to 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 in earnest, It is not one of those joke-y gifts you can give your friends at a baby shower. Also, I could not tell you if they explain the difference between solid and liquid propellent with marshmallows in the rocket science one.

It is not often something comes my way where I can actually put into practice two out of three things I’ve 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 plenty of intersections between education and publishing, but it’s not often you find those you can giddily snark about. Because these kind of books are nothing but a waste of money.

Remember those Baby Einstein product lines, supposedly meant to turn babies into geniuses by… DVDs and toys that play Mozart I guess? Well, they are still around, but their entire selling point was proven to be whatever you call the pedagogical equivalent of snake oil, though intentions were in the right place. To be fair, I think the same thing applies here. In a world and in a USA where every fascist influencer has been allowed to publish children’s books, everything done to promote science among children is actually a way to stem this flood of climate and LGTBQ+ deniers. But the problem is, the people behind this Baby University line are geniuses in their fields, but not educators.

And full disclosure, I am only specializing in teaching teenagers and older, I know nothing about early childhood development and I have fewer skills with children than Queen Elizabeth with Prince Charles. Nevertheless, I know for a fact that toddlers are incapable of understanding theoretical physics, even if they are explained with pastry because their brains are literally not developed to process abstraction and higher order analysis. Learning complex notions requires a scaffolded (#terminologynamedrop) building of knowledge in relation to the biological and social interactions the children make with their environment, something, something proximal zone of development, something, something this book will only make toddlers hungry for candy-covered cookies.

These kinds of books were not made with children in mind; they were made for the parents. And not any kind of parent. The Billy Riggins of the world wouldn’t know what to do with them. These books are made by and for college-educated, economically stable, upper-middle-class parents. All of that is quite an achievement in these times of late-capitalism, so of course they are 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 more importantly, their actual economic capital? How can they make damn sure that they are not cursed with the worst thing that can happen to upwardly mobile families: Artistically-inclined children? Why use variations of the totally-not-obsolete-at-all behaviorist theories and try to put them on the track towards engineering or something like that. In the end, they are one of many ways these parents try not to admit something: That two-thirds of their children’s development depends on professionals they know are underpaid and that they look down upon: Freaking teachers.

The publishing industry is always alert and responsive to this kind of parent, not just because they have disposable income, but because they actually buy books en masse if it helps. They’ll buy just about anything that will set their kids up on the same life trajectory. If it doesn’t work, who cares? It’s better to spend a lot in their early education before you find yourself in a Lori Loughlin situation when the runts turn 18. If there’s an upside, at least these books require parents to take time and read to their children.

As usual, in a sea of STEM content for children and babies, there’s barely anything for the “soft-sciences”or the Arts & Humanities. Will any publisher have the balls to make a collection of Baby Social Sciences, with titles such as “Marxist Theory of History for Babies,” “Keynesian Economics for Babies,” “Vygostky’s Sociocultural Cognitive Development for Babies” (we’re getting meta) or “Luhman’s Systems’ Theory for Babies.” How are they any more complex than the goddamn blockchain?