Nursery University, a documentary about the cutthroat competition of Manhattan preschool admissions, largely coasts on shots of kids being adorable and parents behaving badly, but the film occasionally, if somewhat accidentally, proves illuminating. In one corner you have grown men and women who’ve lost almost all sense of boundaries, fighting tooth and nail for a chance to get their tykes into the nursery schools they believe are the first step toward Ivy League admittance, and on the other you have understandably horrified school administrators waving their red capes at the bullish throngs. Directors Marc H. Simon and Matthew Makar understand the preschool admission process as a bloodsport but never really probe why parents have seemingly bought into the irrational belief that without the right feeder school their children will be on the fast track toward heroin addiction; almost as scary, and just as unexplored, is the troublesome manner in which administrators remove children from the admission process because of their parents’ bad behavior or because of behavioral problems one would think nurseries such as the Chelsea Day School would be interested in addressing at an early age. The admissions process emerges as something akin to that of getting onto a reality program, and try as they might to quell the delusions of the barbarians pounding at their gates, administrators still manage to encourage and pander to the grossly inflated sense of privilege of their rich, predominantly white clientele. Business as usual, then, with parents of color scurrying on the periphery trying to break in—and seemingly and successfully doing so only when they have connections on the inside or they’re able to appeal to an administrator’s liberal guilt. Though the drama of one minority mom and dad trying to get their child into the Mandell School feels both misrepresentative and calculatingly sculpted, Simon and Makar stumble onto a rather startlingly insight: how the white parent’s need for their child to belong to one of these schools stems from a desire to have more than everyone else, which differs considerably from the non-white parent’s need to have what they believe everyone else does.
- Variance Films
- 90 min
- Marc H. Simon, Matthew Makar
- Marc H. Simon
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