One of the most appalling aspects of life in New York is the struggle by the uber privileged to stay at the top of the heap.
This begins at birth.
This also begins with getting very average kids into the right pre-school. The competition (sweepstakes) is fierce--surreal.
I have not seen any scientific studies that demonstrate a correlation between inherited wealth and intellect. Yet, there is a popular misconception that these rich kids are also intellectually special.
This is bullshit. Their parents have money--lots and lots of money.
Lots of money changes hands during the annual ritual--the preschool tuition alone can run as much as $25,000 a year. This does not include the PTA donations which are also part of the admissions deal.
In New York, this is a game of, for and about the super rich.
Hence, like George Bush, many of these very ordinary kids are dragged by their fawning parents across the finish line.
The finish line in this instance is Harvard, Yale, or Columbia.
Two test preparers to the wealthy have spilled the beans and written roman à clefs. One is called Academy X, the other Glamorous Disasters. They are both set in a private-school culture so obsessed with college admissions that it has turned education into a customer-service business.
The current issue of New York Magazine has a Q and A with these two speakers of the truth:
How a Kid Is Like an IPO
A teacher at an elite prep school and an uptown SAT tutor tell all.
Tell all, indeed.
Getting these kids of affluence prepped and ready is more like fitting a round peg into a square hole.
How many of these private-school students have SAT tutors on the side?
Eliot: At a school like Horace Mann, I'd say at least 50 percent.
Andy: It's more that new money will really crank up the college insanity. There's greater desperation. Kids become proxies for the parents to carry on their status wars.
For those of you who don't live in New York, Horace Mann is considered the #1 private school in the city. These already privileged kids who have been handed everything in life (think George Bush) require even more.
But the kids must absorb this stress.
E: They're worried about losing what they grew up with. They're caught between fear and ambition.
The kids are packaged and sold.
Are the stakes higher now that it's even harder to get into college?
A: Today they take a business-consulting model and apply it to education. It's like putting together an IPO.
. . .It's not increasing knowledge. Parents want their child to get into a certain school and have a certain amount of wealth and power afterward. So they bring in the consultant to best achieve that goal. I would analyze the situation, come up with a plan, and we would go ahead and map it out. We'd be like, the verbal has to go up x amount, the math x amount. You feel as though you should have a PowerPoint display behind you.
...Are the schools supposed to be a part of this plan?
A: Yes, and the parents don't help. A friend who teaches at another private school told me that a teacher there received a letter on a parent's legal stationery from his law firm after his son got a bad grade in the class.
They learn the time-honored American value how to cheat at a young age.
In your book, a mother tries to pay the protagonist to take the SAT for her child. Did that ever happen to you?
E: Not directly, but I did find out about a student who was paid $5,000 a pop to take the SAT for other students, and he took it month after month. It's remarkably easy to do. You just get a fake ID. If it's good enough to get you into a club, it's probably good enough to get past a proctor for the SAT.
Mark my words, there will be a backlash. I have two friends, they are both married to Chinese women. They are teaching their children how to read, write and speak Mandarin.
These ahead-of-the-curve families, who are working hard and playing by the rules and their children, will be the leaders of tomorrow. Not the packaged slop of the super wealthy.