For the kids?

The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik, himself an Upper East Sider, believes "that a constant obsessive-compulsive anxiety about children--their health, their future, the holes in their socks, and the fraying of their psyches--is taken entirely for granted" in New York City. Such becomes plain when one surveys the landscape of Manhattan private schools, its preschools in particular, some of which charge close to $20,000 per year (for a few mornings a week, that is) and require entrance exams and résumés for three-year-olds. (And when it comes to Kindergarten, some parents are holding their children back to give them more time to burnish their counting and shoe-tying credentials.) But a recent article in the New York Times--revelatory for Manhattan's elite Moms; a big yawn for the rest of the world--puts forth that small kids may not actually benefit all that much from the ritziest private pre-K. According to the piece's author, the admissions directors at Harvard typically don't ask applicants where they preschooled (what, what?). And, anecdotes aside, the available data don't ascribe to private schools the type of educational advantages that their tuitions (and tuition-payers) often presuppose. "Child obsessiveness is a substitute for status obsessiveness," Gopnik writes. It's murky, however, what it does for the child in question. (Though, for the record, nothing is too good for Gadfly's granddaughter.)

"Relax, It's Just Preschool," by Hillary Chura, New York Times, October 23, 2006

Adam Gopnik, Through the Children's Gate (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006).

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