For Want of An Apron

The other day as I was scrubbing paint brushes at the sink, a fellow art student of a certain age told me that she had never learned to be neat. She blamed it on not having attended kindergarten. That omission, she said, affected her son. Decades ago he took an admission test to a significant pre-school in Manhattan. A perfect score was obligatory, but he missed one word. The one he had missed was so simple that his failure indicated a developmental problem, so they called his mother in. They said he was the only student they had ever encountered who had no concept of the word “apron.” She explained his ignorance – there was no such item in the home – and the boy was registered.
“If they had asked him about Doric columns, he would have done fine,” she said. “I think of that every time I hear that minority students do poorly on entrance tests. Maybe, like my son, those kids don’t have all the same reference points as the schools.”

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5 thoughts on “For Want of An Apron

  1. I remember when there was a question on IQ tests – “What do you drink coffee out of?”. (By the way, now it IS Ok to end a sentence with a preposition! Those were the days before me and him went to the movies.) Minority kids got it wrong because in their homes, no one set the table with a cup and saucer. It is now off the test.


  2. It’s hard to believe ‘apron’ was an unfamiliar word to anyone. And I echo PMcG’s comment on the need for a perfect score for a young child. I remember drawing a blank on a question on Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus as a high school senior in 1963 or ’64 on a national test. Somehow I’d missed that exposure growing up in my tiny Upstate New York town.


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