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Pulling Strings to Get Into a Top (Pre-) School

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Well getting your baby to sleep through the night is just the first big task of parenting. Next comes the introduction of finger-foods then toilet training and then the really big one, getting them into the right pre-school. Commentator Bill Langworthy doesn't even have kids but he found himself caught up in the rigorous pre-school admissions process. His sister needed his help to get her son into pre-school, the right pre-school that will set him on the road to success for the rest of his life.

BILL LANGWORTHY, reporting:

Tom is embroiled in the cutthroat world of New York City pre-school admissions. He's competing with some of Manhattan's brightest and most sophisticated toddlers in an application process that will be as involved and greater in length than applying to the Space Program. If successful, Tom will enroll in a top-tier nursery school. If unsuccessful, my sister and her family will consider moving. This leaves me with the task of composing a recommendation for someone who pees himself three times a day.

First draft, any school would be lucky to have Tom. My sister informs me that this is not technically true. Demand is so high that parents can only request applications for two hours a year. Moms, dads, aunts, uncles, nannies and housekeepers set their speed dials to barge the admission offices like fans trying to land Springsteen tickets. At noon the lines shut down for one year.

Second draft, Tom is an avid explorer of books, museums and kitchen cabinets. Unafraid to boldly go where no baby has gone before. Kate shakes her head. You split an infinitive in the first sentence. I'm starting to envision this nursery school. Gold plated safety scissors, cashmere nap mats and a juice bar offering fresh squeezed pomegranate smoothies at snack time. Instead of dad's old work shirts, their smocks are monogrammed Paul Stewarts with silver cuff links. On rainy days a coat checker takes your slickers and goulashes. The kids tip with five-dollar bills and don't ask for change.

I'm now on my ninth draft of a nursery school recommendation and runny out of ideas. Trying writing about his accomplishments Kate suggests. What accomplishments? He's one and a half. He just found his thumbs.

I'm desperate so I give it a shot. Tom is an accomplished chorographer who performs his interpretive dance routines for captive off-Broadway audiences. Tom's mix medium crayon and sticker art instillations have been exhibited on refrigerators across the northeast. Your getting there Kate says. A lot of these pre-schools are big in the arts. Our pre-school's notion of the arts consisted of tracing a hand to draw a turkey on Thanksgiving. But the moment you want to write the whole thing off as ludicrous you remember it's a child's education you're talking about and there's nothing funny about that.

SIEGEL: Bill Langworthy is a writer in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bill Langworthy
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