Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Best Education Money Can Buy

I am hearing the reports of wealthy parents who tried to buy entrance to elite colleges for their children.  It's an amazing tale of deceit, which shouldn't surprise me by now.  I'm hearing talk of people who claimed that their children needed extra accommodations, which meant their child could have extra time on a test--in some cases, the person who was assisting the "disabled" student changed the test.  There was even one person who took the test for another person.

That's not as shocking to me.  Decades ago there was a story about a woman who took the bar exam for her husband; she assumed his identity and sat for the exam.  I think that she was discovered because her scores were too good--and her original bar exam scores stood out for being in a top percentile.

So I'm not shocked by this aspect of the story.  I'm shocked by the attempt to get the students in on their athletics records--records that were completely manufactured.  As I drove to a social justice rally last night, I heard about a local real estate developer who bought documents that proved his daughter was a competetive rower, even though she had never rowed anywhere.

I wondered about this daughter--how would she join a rowing team?  How would she perform?  What would happen when it was clear that she couldn't be part of a rowing team?  What father would do that to his daughter?

I realize that parents push their children all sorts of directions and lie in all sorts of ways.  But this boggles my mind.

I don't have children, but I want to believe that I'd let them make their own way, while trying to guide them to making good decisions.  I know that I wouldn't lie about their accomplishments, even if it might get them a spot at an elite school.  I wouldn't lie, and I wouldn't pay for fake documents.

I work at a school that is so low on the totem pole that wealthy parents would never dream of sending their children there.  We're very close to open admissions--nothing elite about us.  We're serving a very different population.

I am surprised that these parents wouldn't buy influence in usual ways:  funding a building or finding connections who could help the children in more traditional ways.  I am surprised that the children needed this help at all.  Were they really that far off the mark when it came to admissions?  And if I'm from a rich family, does it matter if I go to a top tier school or a close to top tier school?

I know lots of folks in academia, albeit none in top tier schools.  We're all feeling a bit tense about dropping enrollments.  Many of us are wondering what happens in 2026, when we start feeling the hole that's coming from a dropping birth rate that began with the crash of 2008 and a lower immigration rate that's already underway.  Could these children of rich parents not find a legitimate way to school.

Apparently, the children didn't know what their parents were attempting to do and neither did the schools.  I suspect we're going to find out a lot in the coming days about the scope of this crime.

It's one of those days when I'm grateful for my regular life.  No one will approach me with bribes to let their child into the classes I supervise.  I'm not Theresa May, who can't get her government to approve her plan to leave the European Union or to come up with an alternate plan.  My week is a bit of slog, with lots of accreditation writing during the day followed by meetings at night, but next week will be better.  Not everyone can say that.

I know how lucky I am.

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