Considering that modern children are prepped for everything from their fourth grade math tests to private school interviews to SATs, perhaps it’s not at all shocking that a new blooming and booming preparation service for young people is upon us. The Princeton Review may guarantee an increase in your child’s test scores by 150 points, but tell me, how much would you pay someone to school your daughter in the art of Rush week and sorority life?
The New York Times reports that “the road to sisterhood” is now rife with $100 to $8,000 workshops in which young ladies are coached in a process that reads much like “speed dating meets interviewing meets beauty pageant meets upscale academic summer camp, complete with a counselor,” according to author Sunday Tollefson. But unlike tutoring, which hopefully gives your child some mean math skills along with an edge on the competition, you’re essentially throwing down money on sorority consulting so that your little girl can smile pretty:
Appealing facial expressions, confident body language and good conversational skills are critical. “Practice, practice, practice in the mirror, saying your name, and see what you look like when you listen,” advises Denise Pietzsch, an etiquette consultant in Ohio who works discreetly with clients heading to Miami University. “If you’re a great active listener, they will remember you because you let them talk.” Her typical fee: $125 an hour.
“Good conversational skills” aren’t exactly what I would use to describe what agencies much like Rushbiddies.com are reportedly teaching young ladies. Taboo subjects like politics and faith are discouraged much in the way that they would be for a job interview. But I don’t think that instructing young women how to forsake core beliefs in conversation in exchange for chatting about The Amazing Spiderman should exactly be called the “art of conversation”:
One day is devoted to carrying yourself properly and the art of conversation. Treat rush, she says, as you would a job interview. Avoid politics and religion. “I teach them how to make interesting small talk: what you saw at the cinema, a trip to Europe. I don’t know too many 20-year-olds who are having a debate about economics.” Another day is for getting physically ready — hair, makeup and wardrobe. Ms. [Samantha von Sperling, an image consultant] organizes “outfits down to accessories, completely strategized.” Just in case a client forgets, outfits are photographed and placed in a style file.
Why concern yourself with debating or articulating your thoughts to strangers about religious liberty, the 2012 election, Obamacare, or — yes, economics — when you can stand around crafting sound bytes about spring break in Barcelona? Much better to encourage 20-year-old girls to lead with their “appealing facial expressions” than passion and smarts.