THE PLANK SEPTEMBER 29, 2009
The WaPo has a piece today about the burgeoning market in prenatal devices promising to make your fetus smarter by doing things like playing him/her Mozart in utero.
None of these manufacturers have any real proof that their products are worth a damn. (They could, in fact, be counterproductive, say experts.) But, as a money-making scheme, it's sheer genius: Exploit the countless neuroses of overachieving striver parents who can't bear the thought of their offpring turning out (gasp!) ordinary (or, in the case of one interviewed mom, who are somehow convinced that these devices are a guard against terrifying disorders like autism) with virtually no risk. Assuming a baby turns out fine, claim success. (Because, let's face it, few parents think their darling infant is average.) And if something godawful happens and the baby doesn't turn out fine, what distraught parent is going to think to blame the prenatal learning system?
Better still, by the time parents have any concrete measure of their child's cognitive abilities--like, say, achievement tests, grades, or that free-ride to Princeton--it will be years since the device has been handed off to an equally neurotic expectant friend.
After reading this piece, however, one thing is absolutely clear to me: It's time to start gently urging one of my offspring to become a child psychologist. With Type-A mommies and daddies being sold new ways to pass their own craziness off to their kids at younger and younger ages, future generations may or may not be smarter, but they're almost certain to be more unbalanced. Talk about a major market opportunity.