Joe Maller.com

Thoughts on “An Education on Good Education”

Rather than IM the hell out of Marjorie about her latest column, “An Education on Good Education” I thought I’d put my thoughts down here and link it (and digg her too).

This is one of those columns where Marjorie was on fire, there are too many good quotes to pull them all, but here are some of my favorites:

Remember the column I did, back in the Pleistocene era, making fun of parents who obsessed about getting their kids into the 92nd Street Y preschool? This is the column where I eat that column. …

But: I now understand the fear that one’s child won’t get a good education if one doesn’t go to the mat for it.

I would add that your child won’t get a good education relying only on school, which I’m pretty sure Marjorie would agree with.

But when your 4-year-old tells you, The most important thing about school is no matter how hard someone hits you, it’s wrong to hit back, you know she’s going somewhere else for kindergarten.

WTF is our children learning?

Josie is a few months older than Lila, and so she missed the Dept. of Ed cutoff regarding which year. Ironically, or something, had Josie gone to private school, which use a different calendar, they would have been in the same year.

We reapplied to The Neighborhood School. It had been my first choice last year, with the small size, progressive philosophy and mixed-age classrooms I liked in the school Josie got into, but with higher test scores and a long-established and well-respected principal. Last year, Josie’s name wasn’t picked in the lottery. (The school is kept balanced deliberately by race, reflecting roughly the same demographic breakdown as the neighborhood: something like 31% white, 21% black, 32% Latino and 18% Asian.)

First, there is some seriously questionable selection going on with these “Lotteries.” I’m not going to go into accusations I can’t backup, but a significant increase in transparency would be a good thing for all the schools.

Second, racial quotas: I don’t like them, but in this case it’s almost amusing how badly they’ve played out. This is the year the September 11th Baby Boom lands in public school Pre-K. The population of four year-olds in New York City has ballooned, with most born sometime after May 2002. I find it deeply poetic that humanity’s innate reaction to death and carnage is babies.

In our neighborhood, the population demographic has fully inverted. The progeny of the hipsters and young, formerly childless couples who lived in the East Village don’t fit the Department of Ed’s out-of-date demographic. The result is that Neighborhood School, everyone’s first choice, got that demograpic. Earth School probably got close to the demographic “ideal” since it’s usually the number-two choice (despite having an upside-down picture of their namesake planet in their science room).

Which brings us to our school, East Village Community School. The Pre-K classes are overwhelmingly white and female. As racial and class boundaries seem to track closely in our rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, the DOE’s imposed diversity program will likely cause a drastic upending the funding balance between this group of schools. My biggest hope is that they don’t break things more by trying to fix these new imbalances.


  • John Gee

    I remember a day back before I got married. I had some reason to leave work early and take the subway at around 3PM. The kids are out of school and going back to whatever neighborhood they come from. It was Columbus Circle station, and the scene was an absolute zoo. I have no idea what high or middle school they came from, but these kids collectively behaved as if they were the warrior tribe from Lord of the Flies. I saw it all, as most of the kids got on the same subway train with me. I won’t go into more details, but the experience left a considerable impression on me. There was no way I could raise a child in New York City, no matter how much money I had for private school. Even if in private school, my kid would ultimately mingle with these animals during after-school time. He/she’d either become one of them, or become one of their victims.

    That day signaled the end of my young adulthood and the realization that my life would soon be focused around the protection of my kids. It also signaled the fact that my life would shift right back to the suburbs and that my parents were also correct way back when they did the same.

    If I want to catch a broadway show, I’ll be using a parking garage first, and if I want to meet someone at the bar after work, I’ll do so and then head up to Port Authority.

  • http://www.joemaller.com Joe

    One truth about kids, pretty much everywhere; you only notice the bad ones.