Scandal, Part III

For the socially and economically hopeful, I would explain, raising a child in America is an eighteen-year process of investing in the college-admissions system.

~Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, March 13th, 2019

I have spent the weekend bingeing on articles about the recent college admissions scandal. They are too numerous to mention by name.  As usual, Frank Bruni had a superb piece in the New York Times, here.

Last Thursday I had a class with my seniors the last period of the day. We spend our classes fully immersed in Spanish. These kids are a high-achieving group and I would bet that they all have at least one application in at an ultra-selective school with a sub-10% admit rate. And those schools are starting to release their decisions. Between now and April 1st, applicants should have their answers (MIT released on Pi Day, 3/14) I knew I was going to see a group of kids that are on the very front lines of the admissions process and I wanted to incorporate the recent story that had broke in the news. I decided to print out a Spanish version of the initial article that The New York Times published about the scandal and use it for our warm up activity. Then I had them work in pairs to discuss the article. The final part of the activity had each duo write three of their thoughts on the board. The overriding consensus was that they were not surprised about the cheating, they think legacy admissions should be eliminated and they think the college admissions process is incredibly unfair. So there are some thoughts from the soldiers on the front lines of college admissions.

If you are a parent, what can you do to make sure that you are not dealing with an Independent Educational Consultant with a dubious nature? Make sure that they have professional memberships with the National Association of College Admissions Counselors and the Independent Educational Consultants Association. These associations hold their professional members to a set of ethical standards.

One of the things that I have asked myself in the wake of the news last week is this; where  else might these people have cheated to enable their children to get where they are? Did they cheat to get admitted to their private school? I saw at least one student was listed as a student in a public performing arts school. If these parents were willing to go to the lengths that they did for college admissions, have there been other places in their lives where they have cut corners?

I work with all sorts of families, both paid and pro bono. One thing that I can tell you hands down is that everyone wants to do the very best that they can for their children. Even when a family has modest resources, they seek out free test prep options, try to visit colleges and make their student’s academics a priority. The families that cheated do not get a pass because they simply wanted “the best” for their children. Everyone wants that.

This brings me to my next point. The picture at the bottom of this post is the California residence of the Macy/Huffman family. Now I do not want to appear that I am bullying or harassing this one particular family and their alleged fraud. My last blog was about their Colorado house but I only stumbled on that when I was attempting to find an image online of their house in California to start writing this piece. When the story broke, images of Lori Loughlin’s home were posted. I looked at it and thought that it looked like the type of home that I would expect her family to live in, palatial and perfect, with two pools. But when I saw the Macy/Huffman residence, my jaw dropped. All I could think was, why did these people have to cheat? These kids will never want for anything. What difference could it have possibly made where they went to college? Take a look at the house and let me know what you think.

So how does this mess get cleaned up? I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I think that any parents that are convicted of fraud should go to jail. And the colleges will have to meticulously review who is on their campus and if they submitted fraudulent applications, they should be removed from campus. If they determine that degrees were awarded to students that applied with a fraudulent application, those degrees need to be revoked. Anything less will give people a reason to keep cheating.

Every cloud has it’s silver lining. We learned a good idiomatic expression in Spanish when we discussed the cheating scandal, tener cara. The literal translation is “to have face” but what it means in English is to have a lot of nerve or gall. It was the perfect way to describe the actions of the people enmeshed in this scandal.

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