Katie Roiphe’s critique of NYC private school anxiety is excellent, with just one problem:
The most sought-after school in my neighbourhood, a famously open-minded and progressive and arty yet very exclusive private school, is conferring a kind of creativity on the parents, so that even if they are bankers or hedge-fund guys, as many of them frankly are, they can tell themselves in the dark of night that they are creative people, because their children attend this impeccably creative school. And if they are creative people – that is, people who have somehow made enough money to send their children to this school, but work in film or music or advertising – they can congratulate themselves on their creativity, even if they are not, although in a creative profession, exactly creating anything themselves. The secret suspicion that you might be a hack, a glorified hack, making a rather nice living doing something fun (but not truly living out your fantasy of creating art the way you honestly thought you would be in college), well, the cheque you make out to that fancy, creative, open place you are sending your child to is proving otherwise. They are putting on operas when they are three years old, after all. They are illustrating Wallace Stevens poems by the time they are six. How could anyone accuse you of just being a banker, or a music executive, or an internet guy with good glasses? I have a friend whose five-year-old attends this school. She and her husband were pleased that when their daughter had an assignment to write down what she wanted to be when she grew up she wrote “artist”. But when they arrived at the class presentation the next day they saw that all 22 children had put down “artist”: there were no “veterinarians”, no “circus acrobats”, no “doctors”, no “hair cutters”. Twenty two artists, and one kindergarten class: the school, you see, does not play around.
Right on. But which neighborhood? And which school? St Anne’s? Dalton? Little Red Schoolhouse? Someplace else? Or would naming names jeopardize her own kids’ admissions chances? The critique of NYC private school anxiety is simultaneously a performance of the same thing.