“It’s crazy. Not crazy. It’s what they are doing.”
The New York Times reported Wednesday that some benighted schools and parents are frantically trying to ready first-graders for college.
Those amateurs. If you don’t start in the cradle, you might as well throw in the Stanford-colored towel. There’s no way your first-grader — let alone your middle-schooler, whom the article reports are going on college tours and making diagrams of what classes they want to take to ensure future college success — is going to be college-ready if your toddler wasn’t. I’m sorry. It sounds harsh, but you need to hear it. If you think FIRST grade is soon enough to ready your offspring for college — well, as one mother in the article said, that’s as crazy as trying to get your seventeen year-old into the Olympics. I mean you just can’t. That’s like trying to sing down the moon and then get that moon into Princeton off the wait list. That’s like waiting to tour UCLA after your child has emerged from the womb.
First grade is far too late.
You need to start in the cradle, with the right toys. Forget that play-farm. Your child does not need to know what the cow says. This information counts for little in a 21st-century economy. Instead, get her a “What Does The Ivy League Graduate Say” that will enable her to make small talk with her future college interviewer. Push the big crimson H button and the graduate says “I went to school in Boston… well, Cambridge… no, no, not MIT. The other one.” Push the big blue Y and you hear an optimistic-sounding “New Haven has great pizza!” This kind of training makes a world of difference.
Get only toys that teach your children to multitask efficiently — a Kick ‘n Play Piano Gym, which appears to teach you how to play soccer while practicing the piano, is a great start; a teddy bear is not.
As early as possible, present your infant with a comfort object that is thematically related to the college you would like him to consider. A stuffed tree for Dartmouth; a stuffed blue devil for Duke; a stuffed copy of a discredited Rolling Stone article for University of Virginia.
“Future President” bibs don’t cut it any more. Colleges have heard that before, many times. Try a “Future Senate Minority Leader” or “Future Green Technology Innovator” bib instead.
Reading material must be carefully selected too. Fairy Tales are a big no-no. All they do is spread the misleading idea that if you are nice to birds and old men who live down wells, you will eventually marry a man you have never met. Who needs this? Alter the endings accordingly. (“After slaying the three-headed troll, Simple Son wrote a bang-up college essay about the experience and University of Chicago accepted him on a full troll-slaying scholarship.”) “Goodnight Moon” teaches you to talk to furniture, a bad habit to get into if you are hoping to be inducted into a secret society of any kind, where you will be surrounded by rich mahogany paneling and oak chairs. “Are You My Mommy” is almost acceptable; replace it with “Are You My Mommy’s Alma Mater” for legacies, to build name recognition.
“Time Out” should be preemptively renamed “your first taste of what taking a year off before college might be like.”
And of course, nap time is right out. You do not have time to nap. You should be building a resume.
Do you think that the point of childhood is to be a child? Do you think that babies and toddlers need time to learn through play? That all this frenzy is actively bad? Well, you’ve just given me a ten-month head start! This is a parenting war of mutually assured destruction. I will not put down my Baby’s First SAT Prep Manual until everyone else does. I am keeping my advantage at all costs. Sure, you can relax. I’m going to relax the second the fat email arrives from Cornell, and not a second before. What’s eighteen years? A small ulcer builds character.
The real problem with all this college prep nonsense is that the instant you think of some way to satirize it, frantic parents rush out and do exactly the thing you were joking about. It is a constantly-moving battlefront. We are racing the edge of absurdity.
I look forward to rewriting this article as “Is Your Fetus College-Ready?” in a few months when parents have implemented all the above suggestions.
Well, “look forward to” might not quite be the phrase.