Nursery University

24 04 2009

I’ll let Snook’s regular commenters have a crack at this before adding my own thoughts:

“Nursery University”
First Preschool, Then the Ivy League
Published: April 24, 2009

Following five Manhattan families as they navigate the cutthroat competition for elite nursery school spots for their pampered progeny

. . .The movie’s educators and “application consultants” ($4,000 for seven meetings, thank you very much) may debunk the belief that these schools are essential for the Ivy League bound, but try telling that to the frazzled parents. Anxiously speed-dialing for applications and preparing for the all-important family interviews (“Tell them you like the New York Times crossword puzzle,” one father jokingly advises his winsome toddler), otherwise sane adults succumb to anger and frustration.

“We’re used to getting what we set out to get,” says Heidi, an entrepreneur determined to save her son, Jackson, from “a public school in Harlem.”

Cut to Harlem, where the Ragoonath family, immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago, share Heidi’s determination, if not her ability to finance it.

Delicately sidestepping the minefields of entitlement and class fear, the filmmakers keep the tone breezy and the view micro. For little Jackson and his peers, privilege is a concept not yet understood.

Opens on Friday in Manhattan.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company


Here’s what one of the film’s makers, Marc Simon, has to say:

The “eureka” moment for pursuing this topic came when I encountered an attorney colleague (my pay-the-bills job), hurrying out of his office to attend a nursery school interview. He grumbled something about $40,000 to send his twin daughters to preschool, followed by a shout from down the hall, that I should make a film about this craziness.

Many months later, I found myself rejected in my first attempt to film the process – a private seminar about navigating preschool admissions.  The organizers admonished me that the subject matter was far too sensitive to permit cameras in the room. Having filmed in maximum security prisons, I found this assertion laughable, but at the same time motivating. . .

More about that comparison of schools to maximum security prisons, from last fall’s NYT:

This was a filmmaker who had just won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival for “After Innocence”, a documentary on the lives of inmates who had been exonerated by DNA evidence. He’d interviewed some of them while they were still in maximum-security prisons.

“That was sensitive,” he said last week.

. . .“It just didn’t seem right,” Mr. Simon said about the supposedly sensitive nature of the system.  “Let’s prioritize things — how scary a process can this be?”

The results of his perseverance fall somewhere between Freddy Krueger and a Barney film on the scary scale.



13 responses

24 04 2009
Crimson Wife

The sad thing is that I probably still have in my files somewhere the contact info for several NYC private school admissions consultants given to me by the wife of my DH’s mentor at his summer internship at a Wall Street firm. Even though my DD was only 3 at the time and wouldn’t have been applying to pre-k until the following year (as she has a birthday after the cutoff), I was advised to line up my consultant ASAP “as the best ones get booked up quickly”. I was also promised introductions to people influential at the various schools. And the worst thing IMHO looking back is that I was told to join the DAR as being a member supposedly provided an advantage (I don’t recall what) in the admissions process- talk about ethnic privilege!

I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO incredibly thankful that we escaped from that kind of insanity!

25 04 2009
Nance Confer

“Delicately sidestepping the minefields of entitlement and class fear. . .”

Because we sure want to do that. At all costs.


25 04 2009

I was thinking about the contrast between the prison documentary and then this one. Wanna bet there’s not one single person in the first documentary with any overlap to the second? No one in max-security lockup who as a tot, competed for elite nursery school admission, I mean.

25 04 2009

(Okay, okay — my brain like everyone’s tends to grasp for the flashy exception first. There’s always a Kennedy clan cousin, Madoff or Menendez brother who probably did have all the advantages only to fall hard and get caught, but think about how rare it is, so rare that it’s huge sensational news.)

25 04 2009

Of course it’s not just America. Check out the Christian Science Monitor:
Japan’s Exam Hell Now Reaches into Preschool

25 04 2009
Crimson Wife

Isn’t that one of the biggest critiques of criminalizing narcotics possession- that rich kids caught with drugs go to rehab while poor kids caught with them go to prison?

Middle-class and affluent boys also typically have greater access to productive outlets for their aggression, thrill-seeking, and need for camaraderie than poor boys do. They can play lacrosse or go snowboarding to let off steam instead of joining a gang.

25 04 2009

Did you HAVE TO make me remember the Duke Lacrosse team??

25 04 2009

So CW — you don’t have the new baby on a waiting list anywhere, right? 😉

25 04 2009

About camaraderie and education privilege for boys, CS Lewis apparently found it all pretty abusive in British boarding schools, maybe elite prep schools aren’t as far from gang bullying as we’d like to think?

25 04 2009
Crimson Wife

Lacrosse just was the first “rich” boys’ sport that popped into my head, probably because it was very popular in the town where I grew up (my brothers didn’t play though). It could’ve easily been squash, or fencing, or whatever.

25 04 2009

Just teasing you, on a lazy, gorgeous Saturday afternoon while I watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees! . . .

26 04 2009
Crimson Wife

Live baseball is pretty much the only thing I really miss in not having cable/satellite. Most of the stuff I watched when we used to have it can be gotten via other formats like DVD, the radio, the ‘net, etc. But it’s just not the same to listen to a game on the radio or read an article about it 😦

Keeping my fingers crossed that the Sox will make it 10 wins in a row! ><

13 09 2011
“Partisan Polarization” Just Another Pathology of Hypercompetition? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Nursery University: Following five Manhattan families as they navigate the cutthroat competition for elite nursery […]

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