Toys R Us and Corporate Stewardship

This is an actual Toys R Us commercial that stirred up sufficient outrage with parents and educators that the company apparently pulled it from the market.

I believe it was not the company’s intention to denigrate nature education and ridicule the efforts of tens of thousands of educators in schools, childcare centers and early education professionals by portraying their quest as boring and not worthy or valuable.

I am not saying that children don’t need toys, and I am not saying that Toys R Us is evil or misguided. It’s a big box store like all others, and it panders to our thirst for commercial extravaganza.

This commercial shows how the profit motives of a major corporation does not align with those of a society in general. The motive of the corporation is to sell its product, at a profit, and win against the competition. In retail, that is by swaying the hearts of the consumers and associate happiness with the product and drudgery and boredom with the competition.

In this case, the competition is nature education. There is no way a young child can see this ad and not take away that going to the forest is boring, forest rangers and naturalists are dry and dull, but a toy store is fascinating and exiting in comparison.

Nature was the only thing we had until things changed about a hundred years ago, and considering the course we’re going, nature may be the only thing we will have in the not too distant future, unless we start educating our young to appreciate nature, its beauty and complexity, and its value to every human on the planet.

Education starts with early education. Children need to learn what is really important in life, and they need to learn it early, so they can be responsible adults. We need more early educators and nature education programs. We need trained park rangers and nature interpreters who not only have a passion for nature, but who have training in education so they don’t appear like the “boring” actor in this Toys R Us video, but as vibrant and excited individuals that children want to spend time with.

Just like oil companies don’t have an incentive to keep the environment safe, clean and healthy, just as coal companies don’t have an incentive to keep the air clean, just as insurance companies don’t have an incentive to keep us healthy, just as drug companies don’t have an incentive to actually cure us, so do toy companies have no interest in educating our children.

This is the ugly underbelly of the free market. The free market does not have the best interest of the consumer in mind.

What is the alternative?

Education in mathematics, science, philosophy, nature, art, linguistics and literature. The more educated a society is, the more educated its individuals are, the better a chance that society has to do what’s right and best for it, and to see when commercialism goes way wrong.

Toys R Us went massively wrong with this ad, and I am sure they know it now, admission or not, but one bit of damage is done to some young minds, and to the company’s image in my mind.

4 thoughts on “Toys R Us and Corporate Stewardship

  1. Excellent piece that fleshes out my thoughts after seeing the commercial. I think you nailed it in saying this ad, intended or not, reveals the inherent, profit-driven motivations of corporations in general. It’s not that Toys R Us is bad or evil, it’s really an issue of misalignment.

      1. And engaging the public on pursuing a vision of what they want, because a lot of times people settle for the status quo without realizing that there may be better ways of doing things that benefit society and the environment.

  2. Anonymous

    This is not an either or situation – Toys OR nature education. Toys R Us is a company that sells toys, many, many which are very educational. Every year hundreds of companies and organizations collect new toys to give to those children who are not fortunate enough to have presents under the tree. What message is this? – that local companies don’t care about the education of the children? Ok, so maybe this commercial emphasizes the massive toys it sells, but it also emphasized that each child could choose ONE toy of their choice, just like many of the toy drives emphasize during the holidays when the children come to visit. Sure it whets our appetite for the shopping season, and is also a reminder that one gift is enough perhaps.

    I like nature…love nature. If someone wanted to take me to a SPA for a day, over that of hiking in nature…..I think I’d take the spa today….then the hike tomorrow. Perhaps parents should go to Toys R US with their child and steer them towards ‘nature’ themed toys..such as a butterfly garden – then take them outside to enjoy the forest etc.

    When asked to donate a ‘new gift’ to a Toy Drive, perhaps I should just donate a bag of leaves.

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