by NPR STAFF
For years, New York parents have been applying to preschools even before their youngsters are born. That's not new, but the approach one prestigious pre-school on the Upper West Side is.
At the Porsafillo Preschool Academy, all applicants must now submit a DNA analysis of their children.
The preschool is housed in a modern glass and steel building designed by IM Pei. It's situated in a leafy corner of the Upper West Side. On a recent afternoon, Headmaster Rebecca Unsinn showed off "Porsafillo Pre," as it's called.
"Over here, we have computer labs, C++ learning, which of course, as I'm sure you know, is a language of computers," she says. Wait, computer language? These preschoolers are learning C++?
"Oh, absolutely they are," Unsinn says. "And they're very good at it."
That's not the only language they're learning; all the children are also enrolled in a Mandarin Chinese immersion program.
More than 12,000 applications pour into Unsinn's office each fall. That's 12,000 hopefuls for just 32 spots a year. It makes Porsafillo Pre the most competitive preschool in the United States.
So in a bid to weed out the kids who have no chance, the school decided to require a DNA test for all applicants. Before she joined the school in 2009, Unsinn was a child neurologist. She was hired specifically to implement this new policy.
Her team is looking for genetic markers that indicate future excellence — things like intelligence, confidence and other leadership traits. ...
Some parents are already planning to take legal action against the school in the event their children are passed over for admission. A recent op-ed in the New York Times called the practice "ghoulish" and "unethical." Headmaster Unsinn dismisses the criticism.
"This is not unethical at all. If anything, it's extremely ethical. This is now no longer a subjective decision," she says. "This is a clinical test that can show us how a child will perform throughout its life."
The Porsafillo Academy will begin to accept applications under their new DNA policy today, April 1.