AT THIS PLAYGROUND, KIDS WILL ALSO BE ABLE TO USE A SLEDGEHAMMER TO KILL ANTS

Frank Gehry will contribute some convex titanium slides to a new Battery Park playground, in what just might be the least necessary architectural commission in American history. The Battery Conservancy will raise and spend about $4 million* on what Mayor Bloomberg calls a "brilliant addition to our world-class city," instead of, say, feeding the poor or repairing 15 other playgrounds in neighborhoods with fewer investment bankers. The design will be unveiled later this year, at which point FD.com will launch a pool for visitors to bet on how many millions of dollars over budget the project will run.

* (We just hope Daniel Handler didn't have to pay for it.)

JUSTICE UNCOVERS HER EYES, ACCIDENTALLY SEES PORN, GETS OVER IT

Good news in a case that should be watched closely by everyone who uses the Internet:

A Superior Court judge Wednesday granted a new trial for Julie Amero, 40, a Norwich [CT] substitute teacher whose faulty computer spewed pornographic images in her seventh grade classroom.

We've discussed Amero's case before; through no fault of her own, a string of pornographic pop-ups appeared on her classroom computer, and the substitute could not figure out how to stop them before students saw the screen.

The new trial ordered by Superior Court Judge Hillary B. Strackbein comes after a campaign on Amero's behalf by computer security experts around the country, who offered evidence showing that Amero's computer was taken over by malicious "spyware" that caused a rapid-fire sequence of pornographic "pop-up" windows to appear on the screen.

Strackbein, however, still criticized bloggers for trying to "improperly influence" the court. . . to do the right thing.

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND (AT LEAST, NOT IN MISSISSIPPI)

Among the multitude of problems with President Bush's signature educational initiative, the No Child Left Behind Act, is the fact that it allows states to set their own standards for what results will actually get a child left behind. For example, in a new measure used to compare standardized testing among different states, a child in Mississippi can pass a state reading test with a score that would only be two-thirds of the way to meeting the minimum standard in Massachusetts. Meaning that a Mississippi school could be rewarded by the federal program for producing C students who would get Ds in a "failing" Massachusetts school.

While FD joins most educational experts in opposing the creation of truly national standards (unless representatives of Texas schools weren't invited to the meeting), the current status quo is laughable—a national program for measuring student achievement, and punishing or rewarding individual schools, based on vastly unequal state standards.

I_53_east_91st_stDALTON:
WHERE STUDENTS ARE, ON AVERAGE,
$4,000 SMARTER PER YEAR THAN HORACE MANN KIDS

The local gossip site was motivated to create a list of
New York City's most expensive private schools,
topped by Riverdale's $33,000-plus per annum ticket.

Learn it. Know it. Live it. Use it at your next cocktail party.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS, DON'T LET YOUR ADMISSIONS DIRECTORS GROW UP TO BE SUBJECTS OF FASHION ARTICLES

In a recent “What I’m Wearing Now” feature in the Sunday Styles section of the times, Dana Haddad, director of admissions at the three-year-old Claremont Preparatory School, poses in an Anna Sui lace minidress over an American Apparel tank dress, Danskin leggings and Prada boots, and says, “My winter coat is Balenciaga, and I live in it. I wear it with a J. Mendel fur hat I bought on sale, and when I walk into a room I feel just like Greta Garbo.”

WHEN WE PUT OUR KIDS IN OUR PRIVATE PLANE TO FLY TO THE HAMPTONS HOUSE, WE FEEL JUST LIKE THE DIRECTOR OF ADMISSIONS AT CLAREMONT PREP

The New York Post scored big with this piece on how:

The city's youngest high-fliers are pampered campers whose parents are paying big bucks to jet them off in style to their summer vacations. . . . The charter company Revolution Air has assigned more than 20 private jets to fly children to summer camp at the end of June, at a cost of about $8,000 a flight.

Property developer and mother of three Robin O'Hara says of her eight-year-old’s upcoming flight to camp in the Poconos, "It's a trend. A lot of my friends do it. . . sometimes, we'll have a manicurist on board."

EXCESSIVE CHEERING SHOULDN'T BE A PROBLEM DURING THE PRINCIPAL'S REMARKS AT NEXT YEAR'S CEREMONY

Officials at Galesburg High School in Illinois have decided to give five students their diplomas after all. Administrators had refused to hand the diplomas to the students at graduation ceremonies last month because their families, in defiance of strict school orders, had cheered for the kids when their names were called.

"This policy is completely unenforceable," said Jeff Green, a lawyer for the students. "How can you take away four years of hard work for four seconds of something someone else did?"

FD.com's calls to Galesburg's superintendent were unanswered because, a spokeswoman said, the official was holding his breath until Green took those comments back.

DANCE SHOWS WE HAVE ATTENDED

Suc30008Dance Fever has taken hold at FD.com headquarters, as we have attended three student dance performances so far this month. First, Fellow and other young male dancers from Ballet Hispanico took the stage at the City University of New York for the school's annual junior recital. We're proud to say that not only did Fellow refrain from eating his shirt collar at any time during the performance, in which the boys acted out a baseball game through dance, he also "hit" the climactic home run in the set piece. Quite a show.

Next, Tiny performed in the spring recital of the afternoon ballet class offered at her old Big City Nursery School. She may not be as lithe or flexible as Fellow, but as far as we could tell, she went through her paces flawlessly. The highlight? How sincerely thrilled she was that FD came to her show.

Finally, there was the Dance Festival at Fellow's elementary school (see photo, left). Dance Festival is a unique and somewhat quaint NYC tradition (surely more quaint than the strip searches). It was also the subject of this amusing Times article during the 2006 performance season. Suffice to say, the level of performances did not match those at the Ballet Hispanico recital. Instead, they were something of a cross between the opening of the "Do the Bartman" video and the boy's band debut from the end of 'The Music Man." But we felt as proud as every other River City parent upon hearing our own child butcher the cornet in his own way.

OH, ABOUT THOSE STRIP SEARCHES

Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert has not always been our favorite, as he tends to beat topics like the proverbial ex-equine, but unlike some of his peers (cough-Dowd!-cough), he does sometimes actually do reporting for his columns, and his attack-dog mentality serves him well when he hits upon a worthy, under-reported topic.

His recent columns on the apparent widespread abuse of New York city public school students—primarily, minority students—by police should be required reading for all parents in the system, and here's hoping that the pieces inspire a movement for change. You can and should read the columns here and here, but here's the gist:

Students are being belittled, shouted at, cursed at, intrusively searched and improperly touched by cops and security aides who answer to the Police Department, not school authorities. In many cases, the students are roughed up, handcuffed, arrested and taken off to jail for behavior that does not even begin to approach the criminal. Teachers and administrators who have attempted to intervene on the behalf of students have themselves been abused, and in some cases arrested.

FD.COM IN THE NEWS

Freelance Dad, aka Gary Drevitch, was quoted in this month's issue of Baby Talk magazine, on the subject of how at-home dads do it. (No, not that. How they parent.)

"To help my son wind down at nap time, I would try to fool him into thinking that everyone was going to sleep. I would lie on the floor near him and close my eyes. Sometimes I'd fall asleep myself." — Gary Drevitch, New York City

By the way, we're doing the same thing with Little Guy, and it still works.

SMALL FELLOW AND TINY GIRL: HUMAN DISPOSALLS SINCE 2007

Michael Pollan's articles are rightly inspiring a revolution in thinking about how we omnivores eat, and his recent piece in the Times magazine on the impact of the federal farm bill was ripped from the headlines here, especially his comments about the nation's school lunch program:

The school-lunch program began at a time when the public-health problem of America’s children was undernourishment, so feeding surplus agricultural commodities to kids seemed like a win-win strategy. Today the problem is overnutrition, but a school lunch lady trying to prepare healthful fresh food is apt to get dinged by U.S.D.A. inspectors for failing to serve enough calories; if she dishes up a lunch that includes chicken nuggets and Tater Tots, however, the inspector smiles and the reimbursements flow. The farm bill essentially treats our children as a human Disposall for all the unhealthful calories that the farm bill has encouraged American farmers to overproduce.

Fellow carried lunch from home throughout kindergarten and most of the way into first grade. While the lunches weren't a symphony of organic produce by any stretch, they featured a bottle of water, a sandwich (typically hummus, tuna—yes, only once a week, or soy butter), a cup of organic apple sauce, an organic fruit or granola bar, and maybe a few Newman's Own letter cookies. And he ate the whole thing.

Later, when Tiny began pre-K, we were told that lunch was part of the city's pre-K curriculum. The kids needed to learn how to sit and share with others, and so it was sternly requested that we allow her to receive the daily school lunch, which, as Pollan well knows, meant a mix of chicken nuggets, pizza, hamburgers, and mac-and-cheese. Not exactly what we'd choose to put in her lunch box.

Then, sometime this spring, Fellow decided it was high time he started getting the school lunch as well. He had no gripes with the lunches we'd been making him, and he still takes a tuna sandwich once a week, and additional lunches from home when the featured school item is something overtly un-Kosher, like pepperoni pizza or tacos. But day to day, hummus sandwiches don't generally beat chicken nuggets and pizza. And it's certainly unfortunate that the school system is still rigging the competition with its Happy Meal menus.

YES, FATHER'S DAY IS COMING UP, AND FREELANCE DAD IS HOPING TO GET THAT CASHMERE BABY SLING HE'S BEEN EYEING

12_0525styleForbes.com told FD something he didn't know: There is a magazine called Baby Couture ("We put the 'coo' in couture!"), and it's not a spoof. (Readers: Won't you please launch a write-in campaign to get FD named Hautest Dad of the Year? If we all work together, we can beat Brad Pitt and Will Smith. Come on!)

Forbes is running a slide show of selections, many from Baby Couture, of the most expensive "baby bling" on the market, ranging from the ridiculous to the sublimely ridiculous. Most legit item? Probably the Ooba Nest bassinet, well designed and not completely preposterous at $600. As for most impractical? There's a lot of competition, but as we look at the thunderstorm out our window, we'll have to go with the $4,000 black leather Maclaren GB Type Au buggy with the detachable nine-karat gold brooch. . .

THE FD.COM FATWA OF THE WEEK

We are declaring an immediate boycott of all parenting writers who write columns on being torn about whether to allow their kids to watch Sesame Street. First up: Amy Sohn, who writes in New York magazine that:

To me, TV was a loud, blaring, potentially harmful nuisance I wasn’t even sure I wanted to own. . . . I never thought I would be this zealous about any aspect of parenthood. But as I learned long ago on Sesame Street, everyone makes mistakes.

OK, class. We all understand what it means when someone writes articles like this, right? It means:

I am  such a superior parent that even my internal debates are of a higher level than yours. While you wonder whether your Noggin-addicted four-year-old should also watchSeinfeld reruns with you, I—I'm not even sure she should be watching Sesame Street at all! Now, kneel before Zod!

Sohn, in fact, has a multitasking superiority complex. Her basic distrust of TV, she says, comes from the same source as her overall superiority to her husband—her superior childhood:

That night in bed, I realized that Charles and I have completely different relationships with television. He was a child of divorce and had watched a lot of TV as a kid. As a result, he found it comforting. He saw it as benign. I had grown up listening to NPR and watching maybe four hours of TV a week, mostly when the entire family would gather for programs like The Cosby Show and Family Ties. We didn’t have cable, and I only rarely watched when I didn’t know what was on.

Where, then, does Charles get off allowing their child to watch TV at all? Amy wonders the same thing:

“I think we should limit her usage,” I said. “It’ll be better for her, and it’ll improve our marriage because I’ll be happier.”

Sorry, guys: She's taken!

June 12, 2007 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS

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