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Parental Schoolwork

May
11
2006

Raise your hand about which sounds better to you: waiting in a cold line outside from the middle of the night until an office opens at 9 a.m., or conducting a bureaucratic paper chase requiring you to obtain 15 documents with three seals each, deal with ten different government departments and show your secret Spiderman ring each time you request a paper.
Of course I’m talking about signing up for schools here.
Sometimes when a “hot” school in the U.S. without specific entry requirements, like a public magnet school, simply admits kids straight off a list in the order they sign up, parents interpret this to mean that to try to get a slot before they’re all filled, a grown-up has got to get in line by 4 a.m. or whenever; that’s just like in your concert-going days but this line is fueled by caffeine and competition.
For Spanish public-funded schools (at least in the Valencia area) you need to have a certain number of points to make it into the hot school in the neighborhood; points are awarded for things like living in the district, low income, family employment status (an interesting bit: two parents working – or one in single parent families – gives you extra points for preschool-aged kids, to give them an edge on getting a slot since education at that age isn’t obligatory), a child’s disability or artistic or sports talent, or having siblings already at the school. Every point you want to claim needs to be proven by assorted paperwork; the exact requirements are irrelevant because no matter what papers you collect, you will not do it properly the first time. There’s no way to avoid having to collect at least some papers, even if you’ll take any school (ha, right!) and can’t claim a single point beyond living in the district.
As you might have guessed, it’s school application time here. I’m complaining about paper gathering but I’d be complaining too about getting up in the middle of the night. (I say I’d be complaining, but the one time I thought it was necessary to do the line thing, for a preschool that we naturally ended up not sending Son the Elder to, the Husband bravely did the duty, ending up second in line and impressing the hell out of everyone else there (moms) since he was the only father in line for at least the first couple of hours. Sometimes pregnancy is a useful condition.)
And sure, we parents might complain, but these school entry methods are actually useful systems, testing and rewarding parents for the exact traits each society deems important, which presumably parents pass on to their children, who by going to the better schools will presumably have more of chance to make an impact in society and thus ensure that those traits are still rewarded in the future, maintaining oh-so-important continuity and tradition.
What’s admired in mainstream U.S. culture? Early risers, get-up-and-go, supposed equality of opportunity (actually rewarding those with the best alarm clocks), lovers of fresh air, thermal underwear wearers, etc.
In Spain, where people can study for years to get their dream job as a government bureaucrat, what pays off is having patience, negotiating ability, an understanding of bureaucracy, good cream to moisturize hands dried out from washing off lots of ink and from dealing with papers, dressing in layers (hot offices, cold offices, going inside, outside), etc.
So as a foreigner here I’m trying to adapt – I’m asking around about good hand creams.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 5:09 PM | Permalink

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