Originally created 08/28/99

Sour note on 'Mozart Effect'



The notion that listening to Mozart music makes kids smarter seemed like it was based less on sound research than it was on a great promotional ploy to sell more classical CDs.

But not to then-Gov. Zell Miller. He bought the so-called "Mozart Effect" 100 percent in his last year as governor -- and that resulted in Georgia joining two other states, South Dakota and Tennessee, in handing out classical CDs and tapes to mothers of newborns in every hospital.

Miller gave his program the unwieldy name, "Build Your Baby's Brain Through the Power of Music." He got the idea of mind-enhancing recordings from a University of California-Irvine physicist who claimed in a 1993 research project that college students temporarily boosted their IQ, sometimes by as much as nine points, after listening to a Mozart sonata.

If you could get that kind of improvement from college students, imagine how much more IQ improvement there would be if you started them listening at a younger age -- like right after birth.

Well, two subsequent studies, released just this past week, says they could not confirm Mozart has an impact on baby's or anyone else's IQ.

Putting the best face possible on his findings, Harvard Medical School researcher Christopher Chabris told Nature journal, "Listening to classical music is probably good for kids, (but) for reasons other than it's going to make them smarter."

Miller's program, which runs more than $100,000 a year, has been continued under Gov. Roy Barnes. By no means will that be the biggest item on next year's legislative agenda, but it still can't be ignored that the program's giveaway rationale has been discredited.

Perhaps there could be studies to show if Mozart has a civilizing-enhancing influence on young kids. Classical music may seem stodgy in an era of hard rock and rapper music -- but as art it's still the real thing.