The College Cheating Scandal And Why It’s So Tragic

A parent’s job, as I see it, is to love and support their children, encourage them along their chosen path and not tell them what they should do, but rather, help guide them, and to teach them right from wrong so they can lead ethical, successful lives.

My youngest son attends Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.  He will be graduating soon.  When he put his applications in to the various colleges of his choice, he was accepted to several top universities, mostly in the East.  He chose Dartmouth for what he felt it could offer him.

It was a good choice for him personally and he made that decision himself, without being pushed.

When both of our sons were born, bank accounts were set up and money was saved monthly for college.  Eighteen years go by fast and it was imperative that there would be money for the boys to further their educations, if they chose to do so. SAT Prep courses were used to help them understand the test and how to properly study for it.

We supported and encouraged them to try their best and to use their intuition about what they would like to pursue, and where it felt right to attend school.  For them, not for us.  We already had our chances, made our own choices.  Now it was their turn to decide what they would like to do with their lives.

When my youngest was in high school, I watched him push himself to achieve, studying late into the night, taking on outside projects, sports medicine, various clubs and speech and debate.  He needed no encouragement from me, in fact he would say, “I’ve got this covered, Mom.  You don’t need to watch over me.”

He ended up being the National Champion in Impromptu Speech and the valedictorian at his high school graduation.  He did all of this on his own, working very hard to achieve it.

When the college cheating scandal broke out a few weeks ago, I was dumbfounded.  Even though people have bribed, cheated, paid off and bought their way into everything since the beginning of time, (including the White House), it never occurred to me that you could do the same to get your kid into college.  I’ve been naive all of these years thinking that kids earn their way into college based upon hard work and merit.

How foolish of me.

Every time Lori Loughlin’s face crosses my television screen on the nightly news, I’m enraged and I think, “Why did you do that?”  Not only did she and the other parents accused of allegedly committing these crimes ruin their own lives, they have permanently scarred their sons and daughters.  Forever.  This is not ever going to go away for them.  For the rest of their lives those sons and daughters will carry their parent’s foolish choices with them like a ball and chain.

There are no keys to open the shackles of shame.

I happened to be in Boston at about the same time as Lori Loughlin, as she made her court appearance.  I thought it was kind of funny, in a twisted way, but sad at the same time.  I was disappointed in her as a parent, along with all of the others, in the decisions they had made in order to work the system, and get young women and men into college who had not honestly earned the privilege.

I had gone to New England to have my last moments alone in Boston, walking the streets at night, photographing steam coming up from the street. I wanted to investigate my family history in Massachusetts and then spend time with my boy at Dartmouth before graduation.

It was a bitter sweet time walking the beautiful Dartmouth campus with its melting snow, watching students come and go, observing college life as a mother.  These four years have gone by rather quickly.  As I walked along the row of fraternities, when I got to my son’s frat house I noticed tattered Tibetan prayer flags hanging outside one window.  I realized they were his.  It was a sign that his time at Dartmouth has come to an end, seeing those fragile, old flags signaling the passage of time.

As I sat on a bench on the green I thought about my son and how hard he’s worked while at school.  He’s endured two bouts of pneumonia, rarely answers text messages because he’s always working, working, working.  He’s been to South Africa twice climbing down inside caves finding baboon carcasses, went to Rwanda alone, spent a summer living in Peru and went to Colombia last fall.  He earned both Stamps and Presidential scholarships for his hard work.  He did all of this on his own, not with any help from anyone, and no one was bribed or bought.  I’m very proud of him.

What really makes me both sad and angry about the cheating scandal are the young women and men who were robbed of having an opportunity to succeed at the schools they really wanted to attend.  The places that were taken at USC, UCLA, Yale and others by underhanded means could have been filled by students who truly earned a place and who wanted it.  Who desired hard work, wanted to learn and have a chance to succeed at a particular school.  But they couldn’t because a parent paid to have their child take that seat that could have been theirs.

What is also disappointing is that the children of the cheating parents may not have even wanted to do what their parents chose for them. I wonder, did any of those parents ever sit down with her daughters and sons and talk to them about their goals and dreams for themselves?   Not their own desires, but their children’s.  Did the kids even want to attend those schools?  Or was it the parent’s ego alone…

The entire story is tragic on multiple levels, really.  I suppose the fact that it’s now been exposed so that corrections can be made is a good thing.  Maybe this type of behavior will cease, and applicants to colleges and universities will be accepted on merit rather than being paid for under the table, and the kids who really want those spots will have a chance to earn them fairly.

One can only hope.

3 thoughts

  1. Such a poignant summary of what I’m sure all American parents feel about the college admissions scandal. Those poor kids who didn’t get in because their spot was taken by a bribe!! Outrageous.

    Laurie A Bulkeley DVM Sent from my iPhone

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