Joel Stein’s latest “Awesome Column” for TIME depicts the effort expended to find the best preschool for his 2-year-old son.

Among the most profound discoveries? An awful lot of silliness:

I learned there are many styles of education for 2-year-olds, including Montessori (modeled on military punishment, in which kids transport beans from one pile to another, left to right only), Waldorf (teachers observe while kids put 18th century wooden toys in their mouths), Reggio-Emilia (kids decide what project to do, which is yelling) and RIE (kids hit one another, and then “educarers” tell them they respect their decisions to hit). The school administrators were clearly nervous about charging $15,000 a year for these programs, because they all described blocks as “pedagogical tools.”

We also took our son Laszlo to five different 10-week Parent and Me classes at four different schools, at $400 apiece, to impress the schools with our interest. I spent Saturdays sitting on a tiny chair trying to look involved and shaking a tambourine and dancing around in a circle while Laszlo refused to move, staring at me with utter disrespect. I’m pretty sure he will now never listen to any advice I give him for the rest of his life.