Now that it seems likely a large number of Google employee/parents will have to pull their kids out of the company's daycare program, it's a good time to revisit this video set to a tune by children's songwriter Laurie Berkner. Mock this clip if you must - I know I did - but Google is a very big deal to youngsters. Try to grasp the traumatic experience pending for preschoolers about to be cut off from their daily dose of Googlyoogly goodness because Mom and Dad are $12,000 a year short. It's just not right.
Google cofounder Sergey Brin has explained his company's childcare fiasco thusly: It's an experiment in economics. And yet there's very little that's scientific about Google's approach to childcare, which has been to hand Susan Wojcicki, Brin's sister-in-law, a blank check, and then accuse parents of feeling entitled when the result comes in with sky-high costs. Raising the price well above market rates was the only way, Brin argued in meeting with parents, to reduce a long waitlist. Gosh, how can a large software company fairly handle childcare benefits? If Google weren't so determined to do things differently — wild ono and adzuki beans for lunch! Stanford grads with 3.5 GPAs as instructors! — it might look to Microsoft's example. The software giant offers employees 20 percent discounts on childcare from a number of providers — and its executives are smart enough to realize that they know how to write code, not take care of infants.
The Reggio Emilia approach to preschool education is one of the major drivers behind Google's pending 70 percent hike in the company's daycare prices for its employees. What's Reggio Emilia? Wikipedia for once has a darned good writeup: "Teachers in Reggio Emilia assert the importance of being confused as a contributor to learning; thus a major teaching strategy is purposely to allow mistakes to happen, or to begin a project with no clear sense of where it might end. Another characteristic that is counter to the beliefs of many Western educators is the importance of the child's ability to negotiate in the peer group." I know, it sounds like a commie plot to keep the kids from doing any math. But Reggio Emilia methods are proudly used at Christ the King Early Childhood Learning Center, a Catholic operation in Missouri. It's always fun to watch Valley elites sputter their defenses when accused of having anything in common with red-state Christians. But they do: Daycare costs real money in the Show Me state, too.
Joe Nocera of the New York Times has taken note of Google's childcare crisis. A brief recap: After taking its childcare programs in-house, at the behest of Google executive Susan Wojcicki, the sister-in-law of founder Sergey Brin, Google hiked its rates 70 percent. Parents were infuriated not just at the price hike but, accustomed to Google's culture of analysis-driven consensus, at the imperious way the decision was handed down. Nocera's reporting reveals more numbers showing just how incompetent Google is at daycare — and how comfortable Brin's PR handlers are at lying on his behalf. How, in other words, Google has become just like any other company in corporate America.
Google no longer advertises subsidized daycare as a benefit to its employees. So why is the company building luxuriously unaffordable child-care centers at the behest of Susan Wojcicki, the sister-in-law of Google cofounder Sergey Brin, and closing down Kinderplex, a more affordable center operated by an experienced Silicon Valley daycare provider, CCLC? If you can answer that one, you're probably clever enough at solving puzzles to qualify for a job at the Googleplex. According to internal memos obtained by Valleywag, Google executives promised in May that its new centers would not see a price hike of 75 percent. Instead, Google management hiked rates 68.34 percent — at the cost of reducing hours and increasing the ratio of children to teachers. Google is phasing in the hikes for currently enrolled children, and offering a scholarship program for the least well-off, writes Laszlo Bock, Google's top HR executive. What Bock never addresses: Why is Google spending shareholder money on a perk that it is now so ashamed of that it doesn't market it to its potential recruits as a reason to work at Google? The memos: