Mozart for newborn babies, drawing classes for toddlers — they're hotter than ever, as parents try to make their kids smarter. But some scientists believe these activities have no long-term benefits. In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, a look at how children learn. Also, reclaiming Dr. Seuss as a radical thinker.
Psychologist Alison Gopnik tells Jim Fleming that babies aren't blank slates. Her own studies prove they're capable of amazing learning and judgement from the moment of birth. Gopnik is the co-author of "The Scientist in the Crib: Minds, Brains, and How Children Learn." Also, Steven Pinker directs the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT. He tells Steve Paulson that parents should just use their common sense to raise their children and forget trying to turn them into little Mozarts and Einsteins.SEGMENT 2:
Retired kindergarten teacher and MacArthur Grant recipient Vivian Paley tells Jim Fleming the Teddy story -- about a group of children in a London preschool who changed their games to accommodate a severely handicapped classmate -- as evidence for her thesis that children are much kinder than we think.SEGMENT 3:
Ellen Spitz is an art historian at Stanford and the author of "Inside Picture Books." She tells Judith Strasser why some classic children's books are still around (think "Pat the Bunny" and "The Little Engine That Could") and why these books have such a hold on their readers even into adulthood. Also, Henry Jenkins directs film and media studies at MIT, and is writing an intellectual biography of Dr. Seuss. He tells Steve Paulson that Dr. Seuss had a political agenda: to counter facism and encourage a new kind of democracy.
Several listeners have inquired about the musical rendition of "Green Eggs and Ham" which followed our interview with Ellen Spitz. It's from a CD called "Gimme Some a Yo' Sugar" by Lisa Otey.Cassette copies are available at 1-800-747-7444. Ask for program number 99-09-19-A.
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