Sunday, March 24, 2019
I'm writing this in the air, flying home in a Boeing Max 8. They just announced the plane would be taken out of service as soon as we land. I'm not really worried that the plane has some hidden technical defect. I'm worried that the pilot's parents might have been rich enough to bribe his way in to flight school.
For years, we've been hearing how difficult and stressful it is for even the best high school students to get in to a good college, even with outstanding SAT scores, a slew of extracurricular activities and charity work.
Turns out, all they need are rich parents to help cheat their way onto the campus of their choice.
Who cares if a kid isn't smart enough to get a BA without Daddy's money — how much harm could that cause? It's not like you're going to let someone with a liberal arts degree fix your faucet or change a light fixture without adult supervision.
But what if Little Miss Trust Fund wants to be a doctor? Can her family bribe her way in to medical school? Normally, you would think that's not possible. But how do you know? Allegedly, this college bribery scandal lasted 10 years and only 50 people were indicted. How do we know there aren't other academic bribery schemes out there?
I'm pretty sure my financial adviser bribed someone to get in to high school. Luckily for him, you don't need a college degree to manage people's money. You can just hang out a shingle.
What if you were wealthy beyond belief and you spent a fortune bribing your child in to an elite university, and he came out with a psychology or political science degree? Could you sue to get your bribe money back? Don't ask my lawyer. He comes from a wealthy family. He thinks the LSAT is something that orbits the Earth every three hours.
The strangest thing about this bribery case is that no one seems to blame the students. Why not? The students know they didn't get 1600 on their SATs. They know whether they can play tennis. First, these kids were being enabled by wealthy parents. Now they're being enabled by law enforcement and the press: "Gee, they're just kids." Just kids getting spots other "just kids" worked hard for and deserved.
The most puzzling question of all is why would you want to go to an Ivy League college if you're not smart enough to pass a DNA test without cheating? Most people go to college so they can get a job in a field that interests them. If your parents paid $500,000 to get you in to college, you don't have to work for a living.
I'm guessing the main reason these kids wanted to go to college is to meet boys and girls of the same social class who they can bring home to meet Mom and Dad. Will the kids who deserve to be at the school — the ones who worked hard and studied and made sacrifices — fall for that? I think that's a stretch. Especially the ones who have wealthy parents and still worked hard to get in to the college of their choice.
It might have been better if the wealthy parents had sent their children to a military recruiter instead of some sleazy "facilitator." No bribes necessary. And the kids can still go to college after they grow up.
Jim Mullen is the author of It Takes a Village Idiot: A Memoir of Life After the City. His column, The Village Idiot, takes a look at the curiosities of American life.