Nursery University, a documentary about the competitive admissions process for spots at exclusive nursery schools in Manhattan, played at the Roxie Theatre on Saturday as part of SF DocFest. It is a predictable yet completely satisfying, “only-in-New-York” tale of privilege and social-climbing gone amuck.
At one extreme is the entitled urban mommy with the expensive blonde dye job. Her voice drips with meaning as she lets us know she got her M.B.A. from Columbia and her husband attended Harvard and Wharton. It is completely satisfying to watch her get rejected from her first choice school. Because of course, her son is adorable and innocent, and this is really a movie about the parents. Juxtaposed with the moneyed classes is the anxious couple in Harlem, who realize there is a world of opportunity that their parents weren’t able to navigate for them, but which might lead to social mobility for their own son.
Most of the families in the movie seem to acknowledge the preposterous notion that attending a succession of the right “feeder” schools will lead to an Ivy League university, and yet, with enough disposable income, why take a chance on junior’s future? If paying $20,000 per semester just might make your little munchkin more desirable for the right kindergarten, why not?
The competition begins the day after Labor Day where even getting your hand on one of the limited number of applications can depend on dumb luck and being able to speed dial in during the two hour window when you can request an application.
It’s tempting to dismiss this insanity as a New York phenomenon, but of course it turns out that San Francisco is equally competitive. Some schools require the application process to start while your zygote is in utero. Beware urban parents; child-rearing has become a blood sport.
Nursery University screens again on Thursday at 7.