“Created By a Schoolteacher” Or, One More Thing About the Airborne Thing

Oh, one more thing about the Airborne thing:

The company who makes the fraudulent but widely popular cold preventative makes a big deal on their packaging and in their advertising about the fact that the overpriced vitamin pill was “created by a schoolteacher.” It’s part of their folksy, common-sense, “we ordinary folk may not be scientists, but we sure do have ’em beat when it comes to the common cold!” marketing plan. It was created by a schoolteacher, and schoolteachers are smart and nice — so you know it’s good!

So let’s take that thinking and apply it to some other fields of endeavor.

This washing machine was created by a landscape designer — so you know it’s good!

This opera was created by a software engineer — so you know it’s good!

This apartment building was created by a microbiologist — so you know it’s good!

This MP3 player was created by a master chef — so you know it’s good!

This biography of James Madison was created by a veterinarian — so you know it’s good!

Does any of that make sense?

Then why does “This cold preventative was created by a schoolteacher — so you know it’s good!” make sense?

Schoolteachers are smart and talented people, for the most part. But that doesn’t make them qualified to create preventatives and treatments for medical conditions. Creating preventatives and treatments for medical conditions is hard. It requires many years of specialized training in, you know, medicine. And the common cold is a particularly tough nut to crack. Second-grade teachers aren’t qualified to do medical research… any more than medical researchers are qualified to teach second grade.

I mean, would you send your kid to a school where the second grade was being taught by an epidemiologist, with no training in the education of young children?

Then why would you take a cold preventative invented by a second-grade teacher?

(Thoughts originally developed in a comment thread on Respectful Insolence. Thanks, dude.)

“Created By a Schoolteacher” Or, One More Thing About the Airborne Thing
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10 thoughts on ““Created By a Schoolteacher” Or, One More Thing About the Airborne Thing

  1. 1

    Ah, but you forget. Practical first-hand experience ALWAYS trumps mere nerdy book-larnin’! School teachers (and indeed, anyone who works with children, as I know from uncomfortable personal experience) get exposed to every random, easily-transmitted bug that’s going around a given community – and of course someone who gets sick a lot knows more about colds and such than any mere medical researchers with a PhDs and NIH grants and all that fancy-schmancy stuff! If medical researchers are so great, why haven’t they cured the common cold yet?
    In other (less snarky) words, I don’t think the appeal is – or is supposed to be – that schoolteachers are merely nice and smart. Rather, the marketing refers to a schoolteacher’s first-hand knowledge of dealing with exposure to lots of colds and such, and relies the uncritical thinker’s preference for anecdotes over data. And, like most appeals to natural human psychological blind spots, it works rather well.

  2. Nox

    I think G Felis is correct on the reason behind the marketing, which I always found to be silly. I don’t have any sympathy (though maybe I should) for anyone that was mislead by Airborne. First, the marketing clearly indicates that no doctors, chemists, etc. had anything to do with it’s creation, and while a school teacher might have observed that chicken soup works well on colds, how could a grade school teacher possibly know the effects of specific vitamins combinations and quantities? Did anyone fooled by this marketing actually go to school? Second, one look at the ingredients will tell you its a typical combination of viatmins.
    That said, I love my Airborne, and will continue to buy it, though I use it infrequently. I don’t use it to prevent colds or boost my immune system. I use it to prevent hangovers, and whether its the viteys, or the efervesence or even just a placebo effect, it works marvelously for that purpose.

  3. 4

    The answer is obvious–schoolteachers have superpowers! They can do math problems that most adults have forgotten they ever knew, and they can diagram a sentence in under ten seconds. Why shouldn’t they be able to cure the common cold?

  4. 5

    Here’s one of those “this x made by a y so…” forms you could have used:
    This Bush presidency was created by fundegelical Christians — so you know that it has to be…

  5. 6

    Hangover cure? How the hell did you figure out it was a hangover cure? Most teachers I know need hangover medication way more than they need anti cold medication!

  6. 7

    Sounds like the guy over at ‘respectful’ blog is pissed at someone NOT ‘respecting’ their place!
    Is this a case of a Union or wage dispute? Poor little scientist feeling left out?
    And to carry it onto this blog…
    Its as stupid as saying ‘the womans place is in the home’!
    & I think its silly to believe in the concept of the ‘expert’ – since when does a qualification mean anything – lets not forget, there is no cure for the common cold but big bucks in relief.

  7. 8

    Thank you for sharing, Snake. I’m sure that when you get your car repaired, your house re-wired, your broken bones set, you don’t care whether it’s done by an expert with qualifications — you just hand the job to a nice friend or neighbor.
    So maybe you’ll be my first customer. I’m starting a new business, selling memory upgrade cards for computers. Just $200 apiece. Of course, I don’t know even the slightest thing about computer hardware… but what difference could my lack of expertise or qualifications possibly make?

  8. 9

    I have no real basis for this, but I always assumed that the “created by a schoolteacher” line was intended to market the product to schoolteachers, they being a demographic who’s constantly concerned about being exposed to colds. I think it worked, too. At least, all the major Airborne-heads I know are teachers. Maybe it’s just that I know a lot of teachers.
    I’m an Emergen-C guy, myself. I like the flavor better, especially the tangerine. Two of those and one orange, yum, better than Tang. I hadn’t thought of it as a hangover preventative, but I’m convinced that it can keep colds at bay, whoever invented it.

  9. 10

    Thank you. I’ve always wondered how they thought that particular appeal to authority was supposed to win customers. “Created by a pharmacist” or “Created by a nurse” may have made some sense but WTF do school teachers know about medicine and epidemiology?
    Then again the people who buy that sort of stuff don’t necessarily use empirical evidence to make their decisions so “created by a puppy” probably would have done….

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