Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Testing Testing

Yesterday, after Angela left, I took the kids to the playground and ran into the usual suspects. In addition to discussing the behavior of the kids in art museums, real estate prices, and parking places, the topic of testing came up.

Since the remaining playground parents have been unable or unwilling to leave the city, we are about to undergo the rigors of getting the kids a decent education. It isn't easy. Our pre-school offers a class to parents on how to negotiate the process. There is a web site and a couple of books on the topic. I have been in denial about it all, so I haven't learned the system yet. I am going to get a crash course this fall.

At the park, at the cafe, at the pizza place, everyone is asking, "Are you getting your kid tested." Is your kid "gifted and talented" is the topic of the day. There are a few public schools in NYC that admit a handful of gifted kids. These programs are highly regarded and higly competitive. To get in, the kids have to take a two part test that costs several hundred dollars. The kid is wisked away and some mysterious test is administered. I am sure it involves electrodes and suction cups on the side of the head. A short time later, the child is returned, and the anxious parent is given the thumbs up or thumbs down.

Steve and I can't decide what to do. On the one hand, if Jonah does well, he could have the best education for free. He would be taught by smart, dedicated teachers surrounded by other smart kids. On the other, ... aack!! They're testing four year olds!! It is evil to put a little kid through that pressure.

Also, the system is corrupt. Wealthy parents pay for tutors $50 an hour to boost their kids scores. More aack!

Also, what if your kid isn't gifted and talented? I have a friend who had her sweet blue-eyed girl tested never thinking that her little wunderkind wasn't the smartest kid in town. As her daughter was ushered out of the testing room, my friend was silently handed a score. Average! My friend was heart-broken. Her dreams for her child were dashed. No longer the Junior Senator from New York, her little girl was now a check-out clerk at Fairway. The horror. Double aack!

It does give one pause. I like having the quiet assurance that my child is really, really smart. Somewhere between Bobby Fisher and Bill Gates. I mean he can count to a hundred. Ain't that cool? Still, I also know that every other parent out there is also sure that their kid is a genius. And that's how it should be. Why dash our dreams?

And also, I'm highly suspicious of those education people. They aren't the shiniest coins in the jar. I'm not sure they can really create an objective test to determine who is "gifted and talented".

The problem is that there are so few opportunities for kids in the city public school system. That's why 20,000 kids take the test for Hunter High School with only 40 being accepted. (OK, I totally made up those numbers, but I don't think its way off.) That's why parents are taking these silly tests and filling out forms and commuting 2 hours a day on the subway. Anything to give your kid a shot.

This is a really good reason to move.

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