If theres a word I dont immediately associate with a for-profit, pre-K-through-nine educational venture that has $85 million in private-equity financing (with another round on the way), that in full-page newspaper and magazine ads has proclaimed its aspirations for expanding around the globe, and that occupies a 215,000-square-foot, light- and art-filled renovated warehouse alongside the High Line Park in Manhattans Chelsea neighborhood, its humility. The very nature of Avenues: The World Schools educational mission, if thats the term, would seem to work against fostering qualities like simple gratitude and modesty. Theres also the $43,000 annual price-tag.Fortunately, the executives in charge at Avenues seem alert to the cognitive dissonance, as detailed in a New York Times Magazine story on Sunday:
[W]hile Avenues offers its students every imaginable educational benefit a 9-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio, a Harvard-designed World Course it has also tapped into an even deeper, more complicated parental anxiety: the anxiety of wanting their kids to have every advantage, but ensuring that all those advantages dont turn them into privileged jerks.As Manhattan, and particularly downtown, is transformed by a staggering infusion of wealth, there is a growing market for creating emotionally intelligent future global leaders who, as a result of their emotional intelligence, have a little humility. In fact, when the nearby Grace Church School was researching whether to start its own high school, it asked top college-admission officers what was lacking in New York City applicants. The answers coalesced around the idea of values, civic engagement, inclusiveness and diversity in a word, humility.And so Avenues students may run to their Empire State of Mind: Thinking About Jay-Z in a New Way mini-mester while passing a Chuck Close self-portrait, but they do so with the intent of being humble about their gifts and generous of spirit, as the schools mission statement puts it.
That there is a growing market [emphasis added] for creating emotionally intelligent future global leaders is something else to think about. But in the meantime, humble or not, Avenues students are at least assured a menu of diverse and healthy fare, and more of it:
After the first week of classes, a group of parents sent a seven-page e-mail detailing concerns: there were not enough worldly snacks like seaweed, zucchini bread with quinoa flour and bean quesadillas (so long as the beans came from BPA-free tin cans). In the black-box theater, Avenues chief administrative officer helped assure parents that their kids diet was sufficiently organic, local and healthful. The regional director of its food-service contractor was on hand to address any fears about carbohydrates. A doctor from Mount Sinai Hospital was ready to answer questions about allergies. A 25-page PowerPoint was presented. After the PowerPoint presentation concluded the questions started flying: Why so much bread? What was the policy on genetically modified organisms? Why no sushi? Nancy Schulman, the head of Avenues Early Learning Center dutifully worked with parents to implement many of their ideas, including more education about nutrition, and more snack time.