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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

TIME to check some privilege

At my library, I was busy checking in periodicals, and got to the September 12 edition of TIME. Flipping through, I got to Joel Stein's "Awesome Column" with this one's being titled "Tales of a Preschool Nothing". Now, I've heard plenty of the trials and tribulations of applying for preschools, but the way in which this article was written is nothing short of obnoxious and oblivious. And while some of it seems to be tongue in cheek, there are other parts that seem entirely serious.

Exhibit A: "I always thought having money would mean not waiting in line. I assumed we would use our money to spend our time doing things we love, like accusing our housecleaners of stealing stuff. Yet while the rest of the U.S. speeds through fast-food drive-throughs, we wait outside expensive restaurants hoping for a table. We line up in front of the Apple store for the newest iPhone and stand in the snow at Sundance to get tickets for films that aren't good enough to make it to movie theaters."

I think Stein is achingly trying to be factitious here -- he's going for tongue in cheek, but given the context in which this article is being written (abysmal unemployment rate, zero job creations for August....is this ringing a bell, Stein?) it's really more foot-in-mouth.

Exhibit B: "We also took our son Laszlo to five different 10-week Parent and Me classes at four different schools, at $400 apiece, to impress the schools with our interest."

So, Stein, who is this article written for? Surely not the people being foreclosed on left and right, surely not the unemployed swath of citizens, not the people pinching every penny just in case the worse happens and the pink slip appears. I can only surmise that the article is for other rich people who can commiserate.

Exhibit C: "After some panicked butt kissing, we got into our top choice, a Montessori school where Laszlo would enjoy gardening, yoga, Spanish, Chinese, Shakespeare plays and a very short drive from our house. We had to start a second round of $400 Parent and Me classes there."

Is is possible to name-drop money? Oh, and great about the short drive! Meanwhile, did you know if you type in "woman arrested" in my Google browser, the first suggestion for completing the sentence is "for sending child to school".


How sad is that? I don't recall even ever searching for that before, so I don't think it's just remembering me from some previous search.  And that brings us to...

Exhibit D: Even THEN, Stein seems oblivious, since he writes shortly thereafter about his wife's anger over the rejections saying blithely "I was pretty sure we were going to be the first parents to end the preschool application process with a prison term."

No.  No, Stein, I doubt that.  Now, maybe if you were a poor woman of color trying to send her child to a better school, then you'd end up with a prison term, like Tonya McDowell or Kelley Williams-Bolar.

Stein, I don't care if it's meant to be a tongue-in-cheek aw-shucks sort of post about the "difficulty" of your school-finding life; the economic context in which the column is being printed is just...inappropriate, really, and the obliviousness to the fact that being that school IS such an important thing, people really DO go to prison over it.  And TIME should have gently said "Stein, ol' buddy ol' pal, maybe save this for when we're in a boom and people can afford to send their kids to school with lunch money."

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