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Nursery University

My oh my, and I thought New York City couldn’t get any more hilariously crazy. New York is my favorite place in the world. But it has some of the most incredible income stratification in the world.

In case you want to see exactly what I mean, check out the documentary Nursery University, where we are taken into the world of the elite of the elite in the quest for the perfect…nursery school. The movie chronicles the aspects of the search for schools that are the “feeder schools” for the elite intermediate and high schools. This can ultimately lead a child to….


Well New York, you have pretty much made me nauseated. I usually have a fairly laid back approach to the wealth that exists among the poverty, because that is what makes the city interesting in some ways. But the idea behind the effects of competition, and those that are ultimately squeezed out of a 2-3 year old’s playtime at school, was a lot for me to take.

My experience was interesting. I don’t remember my entry to pre-school, but I do remember my interview for kindergarten. Yes, interview. My mother was working full-time and needed a full-time kindergarten, and my grandfather wanted me to go to Jewish private school. So I wound up at an interview at the top Jewish school in the country, reading the teacher “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.”

I don’t think I realized my school was different until I started hanging out with the kids at home – and realized that they were meeting so many more different people than me. Today, I can’t really imagine being surrounded by people who are all the same. I am in an interfaith, international, intercultural relationship that gives me the opportunity to even more fully explore the differences in the world around me.

New York is one of those really funny places where the same things about it that make it awesome are the same thing that make it the symbol for corporate greed, a society out of touch with reality, and the ways in which the rest of the world lives.

I can’t really be surprised that there are families that pay $50,000/year for pre-school. I lived and worked among them, and I even babysat some of those kids to pay my rent.

Ultimately, these kids will either wind up completely jaded – or they won’t. The majority of the kids I went to school with for 13 years at my school have turned out accepting, active in making the world a better place, and trying to move beyond the walls that held them for so long with the same people.

Will I make these types of crazy decisions as a parent? Not the $50,000 ones. But if given that shot, would I take it?

New York never ceases to surprise me – and make me thoroughly confused.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. December 4, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Man, thinking back. The year I started preschool was one of the early years of a program began by my public school system to further desegregate the district. I still can only just shake my head at that. I entered preschool in 1991. (Article explaining the program and history behind it: http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20091108/LOCAL04/311089930/1002/LOCAL)

    To get a child into a magnet program, parents basically just need to get the kids name on a list. (If there are more kids on the list than there are spaces, they hold a lottery to choose who gets in with ranking for neighborhood kids and siblings.) That first year there was plenty of space. I actually do clearly remember the first time I entered the school as a preschooler. We were walking up to the back entrance, and a bee landed on my left hand. When it stung me, my dad thought I was throwing a fit about going in. (He felt guilty afterward. Especially since he had to get the school nurse’s help.)

    I can’t even fathom sending my child to a place that is affluent. I was in inner-city schools until I attended my university, and my life has gotten less diverse, both ethnicity and class, as I have progressed in school. I grew up on public schools, and I guess I am one who definitely has no interest in private schools before college. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the kids who go through the private schools. (Okay, that’s a lie. Those kids are definitely different, and I can’t relate, than the kids in public school due to the money difference.) It’s the kids who don’t have that option that I think about.

    Don’t know how bad it is in New York, but there are too many people in my community who feel they shouldn’t have to pay for the public school system when their kids don’t participate. This has led to a disadvantaged public school system that is crippled anyway due to the fact they are required to take everyone who comes knocking.

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