You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Scenes From The New York Private School Wars

I've long been a Katie Roiphe fan, and her essay on the culture of private school mania in New York City is a real gem. A taste:

Recently at a dinner party a few blocks from my house, someone said that the wife of a well-known man was lying about where their twin boys got into school. The mother of these twins claimed that they had "chosen" a less prestigious school over another more prestigious school, but someone else "knew for a fact" from a connection in the admissions department of the more prestigious school that they had not got in. This mother, the story went, who had given up working to raise her twins, experienced the school rejection as such a crushing failure that she lied about it. And the person who did the energetic digging and unearthing? I am not sure what her motivation was. Does someone at this dinner party stop to think, "Who have we become?"...
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?