There’s nothing like mixing the words “lawsuit” and “preschool” to stir up people’s interests. Throw in the uber-competitive world of New York nursery schools, and the story gets even more interesting.
So the latest is that a New York woman has sued a $19k/year preschool her daughter attended for three weeks, arguing that the school failed to prepare her daughter for the ERBs, the intelligence test required to enter the insanely competitive NYC private school system. She’s mad and not going to take anymore: she wants her money back.
Full disclosure: I apparently am one degree removed from someone involved in this case (hey, NYC parents, small world). But while it’s easy to throw stones, I really find that the specifics of the case aren’t even the point here.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that there’s absolutely no nursery school on the planet Earth that is worth $19k a year. “What’d you do today, honey?” “We solved the problem of Japan’s nuclear reactor, just using pipe cleaners, Elmer’s glue, and construction paper. And I learned how to share!” Now that would be worth some serious cash. But a Mother’s Day present of a poorly made (no offense, sweetie) jewelry box, three calls home a year saying your kid bit someone, and at least four early pickups because the kid vomited at school? Come now.
I’m not belittling nursery school teachers at all here, by the way. Those people earn their salaries far more than most professions. I’ve often wondered how those teachers can tolerate a room full of imps – I mean, children – who are not their own. Back in the day, I often found it hard enough to tolerate my own terrible two, let alone anyone else’s. I think preschool teachers are unsung heroes with unbelievable immune systems.
But that’s not what you’re really paying for at these Manhattan preschools. Nor are you paying for your child to learn differential calculus (hell, I’d sign up) or how to speak Urdu. It’s more about the connections – you’re buying into the system early with the idea, as this woman has somewhat indelicately put it, of buying a ticket for the wild ride of Manhattan competitive education. You fight to get into a preschool, then an elementary school, then high school, and then the golden ticket of the decal for the back of the car that costs $19k to put in the garage all year. Fun!
You pay for entrée. That’s what the suit is really saying between the lines (although the real punchline is that she wasn’t happy with the school, she wanted her money back, they don’t want to give it to her, so she sues them on whatever legal grounds she can find). And I’d argue that that, not the lawsuit, is the real problem. Like any system with profound problems, a revolution would require people to fight back – and no one wants to rock the boat on this one lest their kid be shunned from the educational/social institutions of their choice.
A revolution – hell no, we won’t pay! – among Manhattan parents is unlikely.
But it’s not my problem. I live in the ‘burbs. You neurotic people can’t touch me!