As you might imagine, there has been some buzz these past few hours regarding the recent admissions kerfuffle. For those of you fortunate enough to be ensconced at the bottom of the ocean, here’s what you missed: Some wealthy and influential people cheated and lied. The wealthy and influential people cheated and lied in order to have their children admitted to highly selective colleges. Their children of the wealthy and influential people may or may not have been admitted to those colleges on their own merits. But the children of the wealthy and influential people will never know because their wealthy and influential parents cheated and lied on their behalf.
Wait, I made a mistake in the above paragraph. I did not tell the whole story. I left out the word “allegedly.” I should have written, “The wealthy and influential people allegedly lied and cheated on behalf of their children allegedly depriving their children of one of the most consequential milestones of growing up: dealing with disappointment and realizing your parents love you unconditionally even when you get an allegedly unlucky roll of the dice.
I have written about the subject of ethics in admissions incessantly: Here, and here, and now that you mention it, here. And for that matter, here. Oh, and also here. To save you, Gentle Reader, from all that clicking, let me summarize: 1) who your kid is matters more than where she goes to college. 2) If you don’t want your kid to grow up to be a liar and a cheater like Lance Armstrong or Bernie Madoff then not modeling the behavior of liars and cheaters like Lance Armstong and Bernie Madoff could very well be a good place to start.
I have read the “AFFIDAVIT IN SUPPORT OF CRIMINAL COMPLAINT” by the special agent of the FBI. You, Gentle Reader, and I both love language, so here are some great excerpts from the 204-page document: “bribe college entrance exam administrators to facilitate cheating on college entrance exams,” and “to use the facade of a charitable organization to conceal the nature and source of the bribe payments.”
There’s also some dialog right out of Law and Order. Write to me if you want a copy of the transcript. It’s public record. A buddy of mine is a total grown up–works as a federal prosecutor–and sent it to me. It reads like a penny thriller. Except of course the parents “contributed” more like $400,000 to a “charitable organization” to have their kids admitted to highly selective colleges. And they invented out of whole cloth that their kids had learning differences or that the kids played competitive sports. Just made it up. So the children of the liars and cheaters could maybe go to this school rather than that one. $400,000 is a lot of pennies.
I guess $400,000 is a small price to pay if you are both wealthy and a liar and a cheater and it is important to you where your kid goes to college. Lying and cheating is a logical next step. Lying and cheating is a natural outgrowth, a simple arithmetic progression, from “Duke or Die.”
By focusing on who your kid is rather than on where she is admitted, this whole sadness could have been obviated. I have written repeatedly about what parents and children could do together rather than obsess about admission to highly selective colleges. I have mentioned reading books, making cookies, going on hikes, building rocking chairs, and tossing a Frisbee. To this list of preferable activities I can now add avoiding being indicted and spending time in prison. It rained when you were throwing the Frisbee? The cookies were burnt and inedible? It took an hour to clean up the kitchen? Okay. But at least you didn’t miss graduation because you were in the pokey.
The take away is simple. I sometimes even wonder why I wrote an entire book on the subject. It seems so straightforward: Who your kid is matters more than where she goes to college. Your relationship with your child–as a free citizen rather than as a convicted felon, for example–will be better if she knows she is loved for who she is rather than where she attends. Wouldn’t you rather be known as “my dad who loves me whether I go to Stanford or to North Cornstalk State” as opposed to “my dad a.k.a. Cooperating Witness 1”?