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Toys R Us Commercial Sends Dangerous Message to Kids

Toys R Us Commercial Sends Dangerous Message to Kids

Toys R Us, what are you doing?

Before I go on, you should watch this commercial for Toys R Us. I need to share the rage.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5SXybm6bss

If you chose for some reason not to watch it, let me summarize it for you: Man dressed as a park ranger loads a bunch of kids on a bus, bores them with tree knowledge, then – VOILA! – the park ranger rips off his boring nature clothes to reveal that he’s actually an employee of Toys R Us! The kids aren’t going to some dumb park! They’re going to run wild in a vast warehouse of a toy store!

I think the marketing team for the chain toy store was just trying to see how much fail they could fit into 90 seconds. And to think, I had so much good will toward Toys R Us. The store had promised to stop its gendered marketing, in parts of Europe, at least. But now they’ve put out this gross commercial.

What’s the big deal? It’s just a company portraying their product as the best thing in the world. What do I really expect? The thing is that this commercial goes beyond that. This commercial is anti-learning. The commercial goes out of its way to make learning about the natural world seem passé. Come on, kids! Time for a leaf quiz! Haha nature is boring!

This is an incredibly unfortunate and dangerous message to send to young people. We live in a world that is increasingly dependent on a population that is literate in math and science. We also live in a world in which school kids in the United States are falling behind in those areas. A report released in 2009 showed that math and science scores in the United States have remained stagnant, while scores in many other countries increased. The analysis showed that U.S. high school students scored in the bottom quarter in math and below average in science.

It hasn’t gotten better, either. The results of another test released last year shows that fourth and eight graders are also lagging behind the rest of the world in science and math. The percentage of high achievers in the United States is staggeringly low:

Although the average scores among American students were not significantly lower than the top performers, several nations far outstripped the United States in the proportion of students who scored at the highest levels on the math and science tests.

In the United States, only 7 percent of students reached the advanced level in eighth-grade math, while 48 percent of eighth graders in Singapore and 47 percent of eighth graders in South Korea reached the advanced level. As those with superior math and science skills increasingly thrive in a global economy, the lag among American students could be a cause for concern.

Fifty-seven countries or educational systems took part in this particular test. The United States ranked 11th in fourth-grade math, 9th in eighth-grade math, 7th in fourth-grade science and 10th in eighth-grade science. One might argue that, out of 57, we didn’t do bad. But these placements aren’t great, and they are definitely not going to get better as long as we keep sending the message that science is dull. That’s exactly what this Toys R Us commercial is doing.

I don’t begrudge kids their toys. Playing is a form of learning, and there are lots of toys that can facilitate learning about the natural world. Fun and learning are not mutually exclusive. Making them so is irresponsible and let’s us all down in the long run.

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Photo Credit: Håkan Dahlström

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139 comments

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8:36PM PST on Nov 30, 2013

I agree with the author.. we have demonized learning and made education a task, a chore, and a joke

8:27AM PST on Nov 22, 2013

I don't see the big deal...I just don't read that much into the commercials...I'm not sure a lot of other people (particularly kids) do either, so they probably wouldn't get "the message" anyway. It's not the TV that should be instilling values into kids anyway.

2:16PM PST on Nov 21, 2013

ty

11:10PM PST on Nov 19, 2013

Some of the commenters have said something like, "It's only one commercial."

Well, they'd be correct if the commercial aired only once. But my guess is that's it's being shown several times a day for many days. After seeing this commercial several times, many children might conclude that studying nature isn't "cool".

2:24PM PST on Nov 19, 2013

The message here is: Nature is lame, and trips outdoors are boring: having lots of toys is awesome, and a kid is as cool as his (or her...) toys get.

This is pretty bad. To me, it's as if the park ranger had been dressed as a librarian, and first announced a trip to the library, only to strip away from his librarian clothes to reveal a Toys R Us uniform, and promise kids that instead of boring books, they were going to get fun toys!... but I don't think Toys R Us would go there...

1:32PM PST on Nov 19, 2013

Children just being children, before life removes all their innocence. I see nothing beyond that except the "interpretation" of the so-called experts.

How about instilling some core values at home, in the beginning through their first role models (family), or mentors, or dedicated teachers with curriculum of value for life not manipulation for an underlying cause and mindset to draw on down the line.

Kids too often forego playday ... these are the lucky ones, not abused, not hungry, not cold, not living in fear and loneliness .. I think it was a grand day for them, hope they had fun.

2:47PM PST on Nov 18, 2013

ty

10:27AM PST on Nov 18, 2013

I'm glad to see I'm not the only person annoyed at this commercial. It's hard enough to get kids interested in science and nature - and then something like this happens. As if carrying alley after alley of nausea-inducing pink plastic doll houses and make-up stations or camouflaged trucks and laser guns wasn't bad enough. I admit that despite this, I often went to ToysRUs as a convenience one-stop place to shop for my nephews and nieces, but no more. Carrying an isolated and lonely tiny science experiments section does not compensate for the message they are sending with this ad.

10:11AM PST on Nov 18, 2013

Has anyone been there lately? I have seen some pretty cool things, that show you about astronomy, and growing plants like lettuce, science kits, butterflys, animal planets has things there as well, etc. Many of things there I would have loved as a child and would have helped me growing and enriched my life from a scientific perspective. I think it is a bit overprice, and honestly I rather grow one lettuce in large pot in my patio weather permitting. Though for a classroom, teachers, and students that are in an inner-city where space is limited and buy or make these is a great way to show students life from a seedling to full grown produce and what it looks like at first, the process, and end result to consumption. The length of time is also there, how many parents of inner-city children, whose schools do not offer FHA, 4H, Boys Scouts, Girls Scouts, do you think, imagine have a chance at agriculture, farming, growing food, plants, herbs themselves. There may be more parents here that help their children with such tasks, but I doubt every child has this same chance.

10:09AM PST on Nov 18, 2013

For goodness sake... It is a toy commercial for kids!!!!! Your job is to educate and teach YOUR kids and not the TV.

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