Friday, January 22, 2010

The Hollywood Kindergarten Shuffle

Our daughter Bella is going to be five this year, and now the scramble for kindergarten begins. Of course we live in LA and let’s just say schools aren’t always so great. There are great schools near us, just not the one we’re zoned for.

So now we have to look into things like charter schools and magnet schools. Until now I thought they meant a school on a boat and a school that you can’t bring any metal to. Then if we can’t get into one of those, we have to look at neighboring schools, sign up for what’s called “open enrollment” and hope a slot opens up somewhere. Of course there’s always private school, but let’s not go there. We’d like to pay down our debt sometime before the first one starts college.

Basically schools in Los Angeles are a fucking maze. Unless you’re zoned for a good one, you have a lot of work ahead of you. Unless you want to pony up for private but even then you have to do your research. But with some effort and some insider info (thankfully, our neighbor is a teacher and has been helping us) you start to see a method to the educational madness. Actually, no. There’s no method. Just madness. So we joined the LA School System Tea Party and we were off.

So everything is like a lottery and you just apply and hope you get in somewhere. Magnet schools you can acquire points every time you apply like you’re saving up for a bigger prize at the boardwalk or something. So the more times you don’t get in the greater your chances.
So a friend suggested a charter school. OK, what the hell? Got nothing to lose. And I can at least get out of the house for an hour or two. So I applied online and went to the prospective parent “orientation” on Sunday afternoon.

The first thing I learned was that a “charter” school doesn’t really have any rules. It’s tuition-free, and publicly funded (YEAH) but operates like a private school (OH…). This can be a double edged sword, I believe. The good thing is they can hire who they want and set their own curriculum. The bad thing is that they can hire who they want and set their own curriculum. So if it’s high standards, great. But there are definitely some quirks.

So I went to the orientation with an open mind. Keep in mind, though, every school tells you how great it is. No school Principal gets up and goes “Frankly, we have no idea what we’re doing. I’m surprised anyone even graduates from here with a rudimentary grasp of math and English.” But if they did, wouldn’t that be refreshing?

Now, this school in particular had uniforms. Not real keep on the whole conformity thing, but OK I was still listening.

Next tidbit: “We don’t have “Ds”. Huh? Turns out they don’t use D as a grade. If you didn’t get a C, you failed. “Just passing isn’t good enough” OK, strict and with mandatory summer for a failing grade school but I was still on board. Fine.

Then the kicker: “We are primarily a business and entrepreneurial school” Ok-- wait, what?! I thought I was looking for a kindergarten. I didn’t hear incorrectly. That was what she said. “We teach the students to run their own businesses and to earn a salary starting in kindergarten” Warning bells. Seriously?! The last thing I want is to have a six year old ask for a raise in her allowance to adjust for inflation.

OK, not for me. Our daughter loves to sing, dance and play. You know, like most five year olds. Now I’m going to turn her into a business asshole at age five?! I don’t think so.

I don’t think I could have been more against the whole philosophy of indoctrinating children into an early cult of money love. Take a moment and think about this: When you look back on your life, when were your most creative times? Usually, with the exception of the few of us who can’t let it go, they were when you were young. That’s the time to be creative. When your mind and your world are just opening up. When you made a diorama, was it of a bank? An accounting office? A retirement home? No?

Being creative when you’re young is a glorious, open, freeing feeling and the last think I want for my child in GRADE SCHOOL is to worry about making money and having that the focal point of her education. I think it makes perfect sense to have a business program in high school but frankly, in grade school it’s a little ridiculous.

I’m not knocking business or an understanding of money, those are great skills to have and frankly, I wish I had them. But I don’t and by now let’s just say that ship has sailed. But for now let kids be kids. She can make her first million at 16, not 6. For now we’re going to watch Dragon Tales, draw, color and put together puzzles. And if she mentions inflation she better be talking about a balloon.


Juli Ryan said...

My boy is about to turn 5. (He will be in the NZ version of your kindergarten, the "new entrants" class, at the end of March.) I was having a fantasy about moving to LA. After reading your post, maybe not.

"Business asshole" = hilarious.

JeffScape said...

No kidding. Yeesh.

Can you imagine how cutthroat those kids' lemonade stands are? They probably charge for ice!

SciFi Dad said...

WTF? Business oriented Kindergarten? "Sorry sir, but little Timmy ate the paste, which in turn hurt our profits, so uh, yeah: your kid failed."

Pearl said...

Oh my gourd I don't know how people have/keep/raise children with all the complications! Sir, you have my deepest regards!


LM said...

Your right! Don't let your child turn into a suit until he is 16! Great advice!

Moviemaker said...

I'm finishing up a movie called, appropriately, The Kindergarten Shuffle. Become a fan at It's NYC, but I think it's very similar to the LA process. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the movie, or the proces.

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