shutterstock_126138524__1393347962_142.196.167.223I’m trying to wrap my head around the idea of a “preschool interview,” but I just can’t. It’s not that I don’t think preschool is important – it is. But the whole “admissions” process is becoming unreal. Clearly, it’s not something I am supposed to understand – because I could never afford to pay the upwards of $40,000 a year these places charge. Frankly, I’d rather set a pile of cash on fire than act like that was an acceptable amount of money to be charging for preschool.

I read about a preschool application process in the NYT Motherlode blog today. One mother talks about preparing for the “interview.”

I thought, we could sit back and listen to the preschool’s spiel, doodling with their branded pads and pencils. But the director, sitting at the head of the long table like a C.E.O., began. “Let’s go around,” she said. “One by one, describe your child in one word. Then, explain why this school is a good fit.” My heart galloped. She was asking us to pitch our kids — in public? Though this environment was contrived (some might say insane), it brought up a question I’d been contemplating: What is the best way to talk about my child?

Now, the woman never mentions the name of the school in the story, but there is a caption under the picture that was chosen to illustrate it. It reads, “Jean Schreiber conducting a block workshop at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in Manhattan.” If I ever go to something called a “block workshop,” just stab me – but I digress. Back to this school; it’s $43,265 a year for pre-k. Students are “furnished with books, supplies and lunch” – so there’s that. They better be eating foie gras for lunch every day. And those books better be made of solid gold. These parents are happily lining up to pay $43,265 a year for pre-k – then they are also being asked to “pitch” themselves? To prove why the school is a “good fit” for their child? WHAT?

I understand the college admissions process. Universities demand to see how seriously prospective students take their studies, how much extra curricular stuff they can tackle while doing so, and just how badly they want to succeed. But four-year-olds? What could I possibly say about my four-year-old that would stop him from being “considered” to play with blocks, color and eat peanut butter crackers?

A $44,000 pre-k may be an extreme example, but in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn parents were clamoring to be considered for a co-op preschool that was $14,000 a year. It’s becoming increasingly more common to pay a lot of money out of pocket for things like pre-k. And if you question this system at all, you are someone who doesn’t value early childhood education. This makes me sad. I have idyllic visions of my tax dollars being used towards education, and teachers and early childhood educators being payed more. This isn’t the case, so early childhood education has evolved into a pay-to-play system.

Well, I can’t afford to play. Sitting in wonder that these “interviews” even exist is all I have.

(photo: Iaroslav Neliubov/ Shutterstock)