A recent article in The New York Times indicated that the collective psycho-social meltdown that is Manhattan’s private preschool system might be undergoing a recessionary shift; public school is now where it’s at. As parents begin to balk about spending 20K on “tuition” for a glorified nursery and debasing themselves in the application clusterhump, one can only hope that the process documented in Nursery University will soon have archival value. It certainly provides thorough, balanced, often playful evidence of the perverted educational ecosystem that has sprung up to support the toppling egos of Manhattan’s upper-crust parents. They insist they have no choice: “We made a commitment to live in New York City,” one father says, by way of explaining his participation in the panic to court baby’s first feeder school. Director Marc Simon follows five families through the process, and got access to several top preschool directors’ meetings held to determine who gets in and who doesn’t. What the parents have invested in these decisions is the real question, and the answer—encapsulated in an “interview” scene, in which adults watch toddlers manipulate wooden blocks like they’re splitting the atom—seems a terrible burden to place on the wriggly shoulders of a wee little kid.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 22, 2009