Friday, November 7, 2008

Theater of the Absurd or Dans Macabre: Deep in the Heart of the High School Application Process

At left, audition rehearsal night at MS 51 last week. Photo by Brooklyn Beat

Just a moment of acknowledgement, and sympathy, to other Brooklyn parents who, like we do, have kids in that transitional year from 8th grade to high school in the New York City public schools. Auditions, interviews, high school admission exams, the ordering of the high school choices, the open houses, the high school admission workshops over the summer in Manhattan, the mobbed school visits at some of the specialized and screened high schools, getting up extra early and getting to work extra late due to the morning visits to schools, and then having to leave work early to attend the evening visits to schools and open houses, sometimes on the same day.

Well, I feel your pain. Even though we have been through this twice before with our older kids, it seems to become more complex and fraught with tension each time as the high school admission rules changed. And, while private school was never really an option for us, now the economy appears to have driven even more families into the application and admissions mix. Some of the open houses have been literally jammed to the rafters.

One of our daughters was fortunate to be able to participate in the audition night at MS 51 last week, which seems to have a wonderful theater program. She had been working with a weekend and after school group at the Old Stone House. The number of kids -- really talented kids-- who are interested in one of the theater programs, and who are auditioning for LaGuardia, PPAS, TU, or Murrow, must be at some kind of all time high. I was chatting that evening with a wonderful actress and drama coach, who is herself the parent of an 8th grader, and who has worked with our daughter, and we were talking about how amazing it is that so many kids are interested in the arts today, especially drama, and how talented so many of them are. It made me think that, with this volume of interest, and the huge number of kids applying at LaGuardia, how do the screened theater high schools choose kids out of this pool of talent ? Very daunting. Although every parent hopes/thinks their kid who has an arts interest has "Talent," given the complications of this high school process, you never can predict the outcome, especially with the screened programs, and our daughters have expressed some frustration, and even shed a few tears, as we try to help them navigate these next few weeks and then the couple of months of waiting for the results.

So, anyway, parents, hang in there, it is coming down to the wire. The auditions are in full swing, maybe beginning to arc toward conclusion, the visits are beginning to wind down, and though the tension is still high, our school has a late November application due date in advance of the December 2nd official high school application date. So, by Thanksgiving, the die will have been cast (or the dice will have been rolled in the vernacular).

And then again, consider yourself lucky. In addition to finding high schools for our twin daughters, our older son is applying to college for the fall. For those of you who know, that is another story. So take heart, It Can Always Be Worse.

1 comment:

  1. Actually we have experienced and come through the worst case scenario.
    When my daughter entered middle school she set a goal for herself of making the honor roll each marking quarter - and she achieved her goal!

    And so she (and we) hopefully marched through balloon arches at HS fairs, made online appointments for interviews at 8:01am when they opened, wrote essays, sang songs, memorized monologues, met with the guidance counselor 5 or 6 times, read Hemphill late at night, toured numerous schools in Brooklyn & Manhattan, and poured over the inch and a half thick HS catalog - which was riddled with colorful post its - till we filled out the HS application form.

    When our daughter was called into the Assistant Principal's office at New Voices last May she never expected her to say "You haven't been matched to any of your 12 choices, here's a list of schools that still have seats, we recommend you cross off the SURR schools (50%) - you have 10 days to make 8 more choices. Do you want to go back to class now?"

    For 3 days after that my daughter sat on the couch in a stupor of disbelief, crushed hopes and fear. For 4 weeks after that she had to sit in school while all the other students spoke excitedly about the high schools they were going to.

    We dutifully participated in the supplementary round and my daughter was assigned to a school that had to use stock photos on its website and had no teachers or classrooms as of June. She was assigned to this school even though she did not fill out its required online application.

    I can only admire my daughter's resilience. Her high school interim report last week was glowing.
    Luckily in late June we found a private school who accepted her on her academic and arts merits - and an incredibly huge check.


Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo