Scandal, Part 4

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There is news on the Varsity Blues front. Felicity Huffman’s case is making its way through the courts and she is due to be sentenced on September 13th. The prosecutor has recommended that she serve one month in jail as well as pay a fine. Her counsel is asking for community service and a fine. She has submitted all sorts of documentation to advocate for leniency. But the quotes from her and her husband made my jaw drop. William H. Macy wrote:

“Motherhood has, from the very beginning, frightened Felicity and she has not carried being a mom easily. She’s struggled to find the balance between what the experts say and her common sense.”

Felicity Huffman wrote:

“I find motherhood to be bewildering. From the moment my children were born, I worried that they got me as a mother. I so desperately wanted to do it right and was so deathly afraid of doing it wrong.”

I am not even sure where to begin here. Maybe they should get points for their honesty but from where I sit, to use this as an excuse for their transgressions is tone-deaf.

The reason that college admission is so chaotic is because, at the end of the day, we all want our children to be “okay”. What does this mean? I think if we knew that our kids would be able to sustain employment, raise their families, own a home, educate their own children and occasionally take a vacation, they would breathe a sigh of relief. But we all know that is an increasingly elusive goal. A recent article about college admissions in the Washington Post said that these days, a college education doesn’t get you ahead, you need it to not go backwards. So parents scramble, trying to decipher a code to shepherd their offspring toward some sort of future that will provide a decent quality of life. But, the truth is that in these changing times, that is increasingly elusive. So, parents latch on to the idea that acceptance at an elite college is a guarantee of some sort of future for their children. And this means AP or Honors courses and test prep in high school, all the way back to being selected for the gifted and talented program in first grade. Parents on all levels of the socioeconomic spectrum are seeking to get an edge for their children that will allow them to thrive in life. You see it with middle-class families that spend money on enrichment experiences for their children, with music lessons, private training sessions for athletics or tutoring. But you also see it among impoverished parents too. Google “mother goes to jail for enrolling child in school” and you will see cases where parents used addresses where they did not actually live to have their children attend better schools and they were sentenced to prison.

I sit with families and try to help them as best I can through this process. They are worried about how to guide their children. They are stressed about standardized testing and course selection, how their kids should spend their summers, what school offers the best opportunity and can their sons or daughters gain acceptance? And once they have sorted that out, they have to negotiate the minefield of college cost; FAFSA and CSS/Profile, merit-based scholarships and loans, both student and parent. It is a labyrinth and it is overwhelming. So I appreciate the Huffman/Macy family’s honesty about being frightened but the truth is, they are not unique. I think that we are all, to quote Macy, “frightened” and we all “struggle” and it shocks me that they would put that forth as an excuse.


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