The gossip at the gym is in a tizzy over the college bribery scandal that snared over 750 families and arrested rich parents, coaches and administrators who were involved in a racketeering conspiracy to get their less-than-stellar student offspring into elite colleges. (You want to see mad? Tell parents going through the college application process that their kid might have gotten bumped from their dream school by some undeserving rich kid.)
The Department of Justice made a point in their press conference to let us know that this wasn’t just giving endowments or donating a new library to a school (which, I guess is ok?) but these parents were paying standardized test proctors to correct their children’s tests to give them hirer scores and photoshopped pictures of their kids to make it seem like they excelled at a sport they never played and then bribed the coaches to say their child was recruited to the crew/volleyball/soccer team.
There’s a lot of shock and outrage over this. Personally, I’m shocked that ANYONE would be shocked by this. Wealthy people have been gaming the system forever. Jared Kushner (President Trump’s son-in-law) miraculously got accepted into Harvard after his father pledged $2.5 million to be paid in annual installments of $250,000 (tax deductible, of course).
The interesting thing to me is that it shows that the ultra rich can get in through the back door (endowments) but the mildly rich can only get through the side door (bribery) and the rest of the population can either get in through the front door (you know, good grades) or they are shown the exit doors.
The two people the media have been paying the most attention to are Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin because they are celebrity actresses who fit nicely into the helicopter-mom narrative. I mean, I get it. I posted their photo here too. But why aren’t their husband’s photos all over the news as well? And what about all the not-so-famous rich people arrested for fraud? Why do they get to remain anonymous? So to be fair, here’s the picture of the guy who led the scam, Rick Singer. He made millions off parents desperate to pay for their children’s pedigree.
Huffman paid $15,000 for a proctor to help her eldest daughter cheat on an ACT test by donating to a “charity” for underprivileged students (and then getting a tax deduction). She found out the school was going to use their own proctor and she literally quoted Scooby Doo, “Ruh ro!”
Loughlin paid $500,000 for her two daughters to get accepted to University of Southern California. If you ask me, Huffman got the better deal. Loughlin should have shopped around for a bribery Groupon.
But if your kids can’t pass an SAT or keep up with regular high school work, how will they survive elite university classes? Are their parents going to pay for four years of term papers too?
Loughlin’s daughter, Olivia Jade Giannulli, was already a social media superstar with over a million followers. Before starting college she did a vlog post saying, “I don’t really care about school.” I thought the whole point of going to college was to prepare you for the working world? Seems like Olivia was doing just fine and probably didn’t need to attend college. So maybe this was just a vanity thing for her parents.
Parents are crazy. I think it would be refreshing if we collectively chilled out a little bit, but I’ll admit it’s hard. Most of us have met the Tiger Mom (I lean in this direction) who has her kids take private tutoring in math and science, piano and violin lessons, plus makes sure they are fluent in three languages by the age of three, or the Football Dad who “red-shirts” his son to keep him a year behind in school so he will be taller and stronger than the other kids in his grade to get on the better teams. In smaller doses you will always find parents who do their kid’s science fair project or take over the Cub Scout racecar project to make their son’s car faster, cooler and guaranteed to win.
Winning is a big deal in American culture. That’s why (some) athletes take steroids, business people lie on their financial statements and politicians get into all things shady. Not everyone deserves, or even wants a trophy. Sometimes coming in dead last can be a better learning experience than cheating to win first place. All parents want the best for their kids, but sometimes the very best thing would be to let them fail (or succeed) based on their own efforts. Let the kids be the pilot of their own helicopter.
Perhaps we as parents should promote excellence rather than demand perfection and adopt a mantra of “Either you win, or you learn.” Both have value.
Or, you know, win the lottery, pay $2.5 million and get your kid in an ivy league.
Lisa Traugott is a personal trainer, Mom’s Choice Award writer, original cast member of FOX/John Cena’s “American Grit” and has a monthly fitness column on Bowflex.com. She won Ms. Costa Rica Sports Model 2017 and her transformation story was featured in Muscle & Fitness Hers, Good Day Austin, Great Day Houston and Austin Woman Magazine. She blogs at ShesLosingIt.com and is passionate about her clients.
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