‘I’ ON CULTURE
Even while feeling a sense of pleasure at how easily some “entitled folk” got caught cheating on the college admission competition, many people were horrified. We have been told over and over that college admissions were fair; all students were judged appropriately. All applicants are equal, but now we understand that some are more equal than others.
It’s disgusting that some applicants can have others take their qualifying exams and that admissions people are easily bribed. As someone who had to struggle just to pay tuition, I could only give my daughters encouragement. No money existed to pay off the right people.
The real scandal, however, is that without breaking the law, the whole system is rigged. For example, 30 percent of Harvard’s incoming class this past year were “legacies,” that is, they had a parent or grandparent who went there. On top of that, almost all of those legacies are white. Remember the phrase “white privilege?” This is not white privilege; we are talking about privileged whites. And since they take up the majority of space for white students, it’s harder for a non-privileged white candidate to get into an Ivy League school. Students who have never gotten less than an A, often for honors and advanced courses, and with near-perfect scores on the SATs, find they do not make the cut even though they are exceptional and “played by the rules.”
On top of that, the “elite” kids get other advantages. Private schools provide exceptional preparation but are expensive. Some elite private schools in Manhattan charge more than $50,000 a year for tuition, beginning in the first grade. Harvard only charges $46,000! Kids in the lower grades get plenty of attention. Classes have multiple teachers in the early grades and close attention is paid to each child.
From the eighth grade on, these schools focus on getting into top colleges. They begin writing college application essays at that point, having them edited and improved by experts, and then redoing them every year. Counselors direct them to appropriate charity work, where for a relatively small number of hours, they can get great letters of recommendation. And, of course, there are the special SAT prep classes costing thousands of dollars.
Against this, most of our kids go to school with classes that are far larger. Palm Beach County tries to limit early grades to 18, but there is one teacher and perhaps an aide. It takes a while before reading specialists get involved, allowing some students to fall behind. Further, disciplinary rules set forth by the federal government make it almost impossible to handle very difficult students. Class sizes in high school are very large. There are far too few counselors helping to focus on getting into top colleges. The wealthy among us have their own specialists who often come close to what the ones now heading for prison do.
Almost as bad, although legal, is that colleges chase the kids of really rich parents, or those well-connected, because they often get huge donations out of it. Why not take Dopey McStupid, who had trouble getting out of intermediate school, when his parents can donate millions of dollars? If you are not rich, well, we are told the colleges will then judge you fairly. Of course, what they define as fair, most others do not.
And the one absolutely objective way of determining competence, the SAT (or ACT for some areas) is being pushed aside to ensure that many of our most talented kids do not make it even if they excel. Without clout, excellence is just another boring word between enriching and excrement.
So, when people say that criminals are involved, just realize that whole game is crooked and always has been. Meanwhile, regular, really talented kids are its victims.