Being There

If going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than sleeping in a garage makes you a car, then putting this balding, paunchy, 62-year-old author is a Miami Dolphins' uniform doesn't make me a competitive NFL player. You know the expression, "several bulbs shy of a chandelier"? I am a hundred and something pounds short of a defensive lineman. Which brings us back--perhaps not surprisingly--to the kids whose parents lied and cheated in order to get their darlings admitted to USC, UCLA, and other institutions where scarcity of space is frequently confounded with excellence in education.

What happens to the children of the liars and the cheaters when they show up in the--what's the word again? Oh, yes, "classes"--at the actual institutions? I'll take a guess, Alec. What is "the same thing that would happen to this 180-pound author were he to appear on the field at Dolphin Stadium?" To "down, set, hike," I would add, "cower, tremble, and hide." Because I don't belong on the field. I won't do well there. Indeed, the most likely scenario is that I am scrapped off the turf and returned to my loved ones in a bucket. And that's my prediction for the children of the liars and cheaters. When the reality of ability matters more than the appearance thereof, there's going to be some unpleasantness.

Because getting in to college isn't as important as staying in.

Because the bumper sticker on your car isn't as important at the information in your child's brain.

Because your lying and cheating parents can hire someone to write your term papers for you, but there is still such a thing as an in-class exam. The children of the cheaters had their resumes invented out of the ether: "I was on the lacrosse team;" "I scored a 1500 on my SAT;" "I got an A in AP Calculus." But your curriculum vitae can't help you when the tests are handed out.

I envision a conversation between a college professor and one of the children of the liars and cheaters:

College Professor: I have graded the exams and am returning them to you.

Child of One of the Liars and Cheaters: An F? No way? Dude! I don't get Fs! I done been assepted to this here good collage.

College Professor: You were asked to write an essay about the significance of the Yalta Conference.

Child: Yeah. Okay. Duh. My answer's right here. I wrote "Yalta."

College Professor: You made no mention of Churchill or Stalin or even the Second World War. The question referenced the significance of the Yalta Conference, not its location.

Child: I'm calling my mommy.

The bromide, "the hardest part of Harvard is getting in" refers to the random aspect of admissions, that there are more qualified applicants than there are beds in the first-year dorms. Bill Fitzsimmons, the director of admissions and financial aid at Harvard, has been saying for years to anyone who would listen that lots of the kids who aren't admitted would have done just as well in the classroom as the ones who were. But note the word "qualified." Neither Bill nor anyone else is talking about boys who can't count to eleven with their zippers up.

"What happened to those kids in your medical school class who aren't as hard working as the rest of you?" I asked one of my medical students recently. His response? "Those kids who don't work hard? Those kids aren't in our class any more."

So present mirth hath present laughter. For those of you who are feeling outraged or wronged that the children of liars and cheaters have been admitted, take heart. Cheaters never prosper.

(And here's the original from Twelfth Night. I'm not sure the entire poem is completely relevant but by God it is a thing of beauty and my dad loved it and knew it by heart.)

O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O, stay and hear! your true love's coming,
That can sing both high and low:
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man's son doth know.
What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet-and-twenty!
Youth's a stuff will not endure.

I write all the time about "it's who you are not where you go." I'm talking about how qualified students--those who love to learn and can study rather than play violent video games--tend to perform better than their dissolute, feckless peers. But the corollary, that kids lacking ability and motivation don't earn PhDs in philosophy from Princeton--holds true as well.

It has been said, that revenge is a dish that people of taste prefer to eat cold. Let's hold off on our indignation and resentment for just a bit shall we? The kids of the liars and the cheaters may have a comeuppance coming of epic proportion. Flunking out of a prestigious institution must be unpleasant no matter how wealthy and influential your parents are. Just because I'm not on the field during a Dolphin games doesn't mean I can't imagine just how uniquely horrible it would be. Oh, and speaking of ill will, Fitzgerald said that living well is the best revenge. Rather than paying attention to the children of the liars and the cheaters, wouldn't now be a great time to focus on something else--like how great it is to spend time with your kids not talking about which students are being admitted to which eminent colleges?

3 thoughts on “Being There

  1. Barbara Benway

    It is, I think, a default position to frame events as personal. “My daughter could have been awarded the water polo scholarship if we had known a pool, team and leagues weren’t required.”

    I understand the sense of righteous indignation. The The victims not often mentioned are the students whose parents telegraphed to them that they could not be successful with their own efforts.

    At eighteen, my daughter cannot imagine how I reached my current age without her help. If I bribed her way into college she would be furious that I didn’t pay off her car with that money You can see her life is challenging without my further complicating it.

    Thank you, as always, for sharing your insights and humor. I do so enjoy the blog.

    Warmly,
    Barbara Benway

    Reply

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