20 June, 2009

Brainwashed into counting

My wife related the following story to me. Our now three-year old daughter wanted a snack, so my wife gave her five M&M's. My wife also seized the opportunity to review counting & colors, so in Russian they said the colors, then counted:

раз, два, три, четыре, пять!
Immediately afterwords, my daughter laid our her five treasures on the table, and started counting again:
One, two, three, four, five!
…just like that, in English.

You think you know where I'm going with this, but you're only partly right. Yes, my daughter is a genius because she can count in two languages.

Rather, my question is: Who taught her to count in English? My wife uses only Russian with them, and I didn't. I use only Russian or Italian with my daughters.

The only answer I can fathom is, PBS (Sesame Street et al). My daughter watches it frequently.

Similarly, she also says sometimes, Come here! or Come on! Again, where did she pick that up? Neither I nor my wife says it to anyone. We generally say, Иди к сюда! and I sometimes say, Vie' cca! (Gaetano/Nnapulitano) or Vieni qua! (Italian, if I'm losing patience).

Again, you think you know where I'm going with this, but now you're wrong. I'm not about to laud the educational value of television, especially of Sesame Street and other shows broadcast by PBS. Yeah, yeah, that's all true, and you should donate, even if they seem magically exempt from the law mandating a switch to digital. (The local PBS continues to broadcast in analog. As usual, the government excepts favored clients from its own regulations.)

What I really want is to point this out: The next time someone tells you that sex and violence on television do not affect the viewer, think about how my daughter is learning to speak English.

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