Manhattan Kindergarten
June 19, 2001 3:43 AM   Subscribe

Manhattan Kindergarten "A child stricken with cancer? The collapse of her husband's business? The death of a beloved parent? Menopause? No, the darkest year of Mrs. G.'s life came the year her son was rejected from kindergarten."
posted by todd (19 comments total)
It all sounds a bit much, but if they truly "turn out graduates who know the difference between a Van Gogh and a Vermeer, speak French, and play decent tennis," I wish I had gone to one of them. I think I came out of kindergarten with fairly good block-stacking and truck-pushing skills, and I could sit around in a circle and sing with the best of them. Not that these skills didn't pay off handsomely in later years, mind you -- that's pretty much all we do at work some days -- but I wasn't chatting in French to my tennis buddy Pierre about the Vermeer show.
posted by pracowity at 4:45 AM on June 19, 2001

At least they aren't stabbing them. I almost posted this as a main page link, but I decided against it.

Anyway, sure, these kindergartens are damn snotty, elitist, and maybe they do fast-track the kids for acceptance to an ivy league institution. But really, it's just a way to show off for the parents: Look how good our DNA is. The status is for them, not the kids. I doubt seriously the kids give a rat's ass if left to their own devices.

It's the gifted program crap all over again, really. Except now, instead of being in school for a year or two before they test you, they start as they should be learning about nap time. Offspring as the new Mercedes.
posted by Ezrael at 5:06 AM on June 19, 2001

I've been thinking about this for a while (my son is 3), and I think that there is a basic disconnect in the logical thinking that leads to this kind of thing.

If getting an early start is so critical, how is it that these super-successful people got where they are? While this kind of nonsense is not new, the pace and intensity of it certainly is. Ugh.

I remember playing in the mud at my friend Dorian's house when I was 4 and 5, and running through the woods pretending we were the Superfriends.

Every time I get envious of the powerful elites in this country, I read something like this and it reminds me why I am glad to be who I am.
posted by Irontom at 5:47 AM on June 19, 2001

Any woman who gets THAT upset when her child isn't accepted into the "right" kindergarten is going to give the kid a major inferiority complex. I can't imagine he can view himself as anything but a huge disappointment to her (and you know it'll only get worse if, god forbid, he's "ordinary" in later years). That's so incredibly sad. Whatever happened to caring about what's right for your kids instead of caring about what's right for you?
posted by shauna at 6:03 AM on June 19, 2001

shauna - that is SO 19th century...
posted by Irontom at 6:17 AM on June 19, 2001

shauna - that is SO 19th century...

Ah, yes, that's me -- such an old-fashioned girl.

posted by shauna at 6:39 AM on June 19, 2001

Surprisingly I don't think it was exclusively the same-family DNA mixing that ruined the royal families, the princes and the kings of Europe. Sure they were a bit slow, but yeah, that's the price of having DNA of 'all the best people'. It's that they had money, and in ridiculous sums at that, it's a disease, one that changes people, in simplified terms they become 'giggly material teenager ansy and armed with a credit card at a mall' times 10, which if why you often read of stories of door knob hunting spanning months, involving cross-continental travel and bribery.

Ofcourse not everyone rich is this way, but a lot are. I guess it depends on the person most, which really says more about the ridiculously rich people than anyone else.

Would I love to have that much money? Sure, but I've learned that money is often times the least of things, and sure it's what everyone would laugh it, 'yeah, that's what everyone says, money is not happiness and it's the root of all evil, this type of attitude is for peasants only for they are simply jealous.

Life is largely based on chances, some get through, others don't. Chasing after vanishing riches all your life is sad. So, yes, that "Who lead a better life? A NYC broker working to 40 and then retiring to Greece? Or a Fisherman living all his life there?" kind of rings true.

"It was in the reign of George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarreled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now."
posted by tiaka at 6:44 AM on June 19, 2001

how are our children supposed to climb the social ladder on the backs of their peers if they can't get into the most elitist kindergartens!

parents, please stop living through your children. let the little buggers be kids, trust me that's all they want at the time.
posted by will at 6:44 AM on June 19, 2001

Brings to mind a cartoon from the New Yorker.

A little kid proudly shows his mom a crayon drawing he has just finished. She turns and whispers to an adult friend sitting next to her on the couch: "I don't have the heart to tell him what's going on with today's art market."

Suddenly this cartoon isn't that funny.
posted by bilco at 6:56 AM on June 19, 2001

If nothing else, I give this article the prize for managing to use the word "meritocracy" approximately 483 times.
posted by Oriole Adams at 7:49 AM on June 19, 2001

Competitive Child Rearing is an ugly sport, but yuppies just don't know when to quit.

I don't believe for a second that acceptance into the "right day care" determines a child's entire life's fortune. I grew up in a very modest lower-middle-class family in a mill town in Maine, only ever went to public school, got really good grades and still went to a top-tier university -- twice.
posted by briank at 8:01 AM on June 19, 2001

ezrael, I think it's possible that it's not a "look how good our DNA is", it's a "my child will break through to the next social stratum if I get him into this school." The percentage of kids in the ivy league that come from this handful of schools is ridiculous. The parents probably know this first-hand and want their kids to have that background, those friends. I'm not saying it's a good thing, but it's different, and more complex and deeply-rooted in their thinking. It's the same old american "let's make a better life for our kids," only at this level, "a better life" means having crew buddies photos of yourself and your highschool buddies sitting around smoking cigarettes with your ties loosened and jackets rumpled. Maybe that's no better, but I think it's a lot more complicated of a thing than "offspring as the new mercedes". It's something about the capitalist system being predicated on the desirability of socioeconomic advancement, and these people (who are choosing among $14k kindergartens), being willing and able capitalist players, that allows these schools to take on such an importance.
posted by jeb at 8:15 AM on June 19, 2001

Or perhaps it is parents who have managed a bit of financial success who have found that they are capable of giving their children more than Annie the A and the alphabet people, and so they're fighting diligently in order to do just that. Have any of you seen what is being taught in the average kindergarten? It's appalling, truly. If we still lived in New York, I would've been fighting tooth and nail to get our kids into Brooklyn Friends, without question.
posted by Dreama at 8:51 AM on June 19, 2001

"Things are like New York in New York these days."

sort of anti-news, isn't it?
posted by holgate at 8:56 AM on June 19, 2001

Was that Yogi Berra, holgate?
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 11:01 AM on June 19, 2001

The idea of getting your kid into the right kindergarden is that it's a system of feeder schools. You have to get into an elite-enough lowerschool in order to be guaranteed a place in the right high school and therefore go to yale.

$14,000 kindergarden blows my mind, though.
posted by palegirl at 12:10 PM on June 19, 2001

American kindergarten seems like a huge joke. Do you guys actually learn anything in it? Sesame Street seems to have more educational content.
posted by owillis at 12:14 PM on June 19, 2001

when i was five, i could read as well as your above average twelve year old. i had gone to one of those elitist preschools on a scholarship, since my parents were too poor to afford to send me any other way. i was in fact smarter than most of my yuppiefied preschool friends. but it didn't matter, because i had to go to kindergarten in a public school. they were amazed by me. they wanted to skip me to second grade by the first day of kindergarten. but my mom didn't want me to. she thought i should enjoy being a kid. which, in theory, was a good choice. but the public school system had no fucking clue what to do with me. so i sat in a room adjacent to the principal's office and read most of the day. while i could have been learning wonderful and amazing things, 200 times faster than the average adult, i was sitting around basically doing nothing. i could have been brilliant. but now i'm barely in the second quarter of my class and my last sat score was an 1160. of course i made a 700 verbal, sitting around and reading during my formative years. but i think i got screwed. public schools are equal to brainrot. and if this is how it was in the late eighties, think about how much they've degenerated.

private schools, no matter how elitist they are, are so much better than public schools. of course these corporate dirtbags want all of this for their kids. americans have no identity, no self confidence, no affirmations to make them believe that they are succesful unless they went to harvard and are making more than a million a year.
posted by natasharama at 1:14 PM on June 19, 2001

The reason I see this as a DNA cookoff is because I was stuck in the Gifted Gulag (my word for the week, apparently) with a whole bunch of these kids, kids who could program a computer to generate constantly expanding RPG's and who loved to conjugate Latin, but who had no idea who Winnie the Pooh was or how to play tag. They'd been driven to exceed expectations for so long, they'd been warped into some kind of parody of maturity years early. In fourth grade, two of them were already in a sexual relationship. Last year, on a visit home, I ran into them on Thayer Street in Providence...and they are still together. They've even invented their own language to talk to each other.

(The scariest part was, after ten minutes, I began to understand flashes of it.)

One of my classmates killed himself two years into Junior High. Another dropped out of school and is now working as a scow pilot. Others went on to good tech school and the ivy league and are probably doing quite well, but I think applying ruthless Darwinism to our schools might not be the way to go.

americans have no identity, no self confidence, no affirmations to make them believe that they are succesful unless they went to harvard and are making more than a million a year.

Maybe some of us are this way, but others are not. I have a story remarkably similar to yours, natasharama, except that my school crammed me in to the brain parade once they realized I'd read most of the books they were trying to get me to read already, and ahead. (I think they lost patience with me when I began arguing with the teachers about historical innacuracies.) Objectively, I should be disappointed with my life...I've accomplished nothing grand, failed to write the great work, and am living in a modest apartment with my girlfriend and our cat.

I'm not, though. I survived my trip through school, although it really was a lot worse than I'm saying here, and I'm happy some of the time, which is enough for me. I'm glad I opted out of the pressure cooker. I hope someone watches out for these kids.
posted by Ezrael at 1:36 PM on June 19, 2001

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