Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Lessons from a college admission scandal
On Your Right
Have we learned anything yet from the ongoing college admission scandal? Probably not.
We already knew that many of the well-off and famous tend to spend money to get their way, have little appreciation for rules, regard most other people as flotsam, and in general are a pack of spoiled jerks who have children much like themselves. And that these negative characteristics are orders of magnitude worse for those who have marinated for decades in the public adulation that is a biproduct of working in Hollywood.
We knew that these folks have access to higher education through routes unavailable to most ordinary folks. If one is super rich, donates a building to Vinecovered University, then one’s offspring are likely to receive more favorable treatment in VU’s admissions process than might otherwise be the case. If one is merely rich, but graduates from VU to become a generous and famous alumnus, a “legacy admission” just might be available.
So if we have learned anything from this scandal, it might be that the Hollywood set most involved in this scandal are well-off but not super rich; that they are remarkably stupid; and that their children — at least in Lori Loughlin’s case — are even duller.
Case in point is Loughlin’s daughter Olivia Jade, a YouTube celebrity and proof, if any be needed in the wake of Paris Hilton and the Kardashians, that a functioning brain is unnecessary to human life. The beneficiary of mommy’s financial largess and finagling, once ensconced a student at the University of Southern California, produced and put online a video announcing that she was not really at the university for its academics, but rather for the beer and football — and that she would have to “talk to her deans” about her schedule. One might assume that she has now talked to them about other things.
Yes, USC is picky for a state school in California. Its acceptance rate was 17 percent last year — not as picky as Stanford’s 9.5 percent, but picky. But really, who pays a $500,000 backhander to get their child into a state school, when all it takes is studiousness, a little initiative, some creativity and a demonstrated thirst for knowledge?
People who have money, but whose children lack the other characteristics.
What this scandal might really inform us about is the state of mind among Hollywood’s Smart Set — and the state of academics at the nation’s top universities. To the extent that the payola and cheating this scandal exposes is a product of concern for the welfare of one’s children, it is understandable if not laudable. One wishes the best for one’s offspring, and the parents in question had the means, if not the wit, to do something about it — think über-helicopter parents. It was their methodology that was criminal, and damaging to boot. In doing what they did, they provided living examples to their children that lying and cheating are perfectly acceptable as long as they bring the desired results. In doing so they were creating not balanced, self-sufficient adults who appreciate the value of work, but ego-driven sociopathic shortcutters. Call it an advanced form of child abuse that steals from the future ability to function in the face of challenges, to feed present appetites.
There are also implications for academic standards raised eloquently by Harvard Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz, who noted that “sixty years ago, this couldn’t work because these students would fail out.” Paying one’s way in wouldn’t get a student anything but quick dismissal. Now, however, “nobody fails, and today nobody gets bad grades.” Not even Cs. This collapse of academics is the dark underside of the current admissions scandal, the unmentioned betrayal of purposeful learning that makes it all possible.
Furthermore, if one’s time and resources are unlimited, one can spend a very long time in the pleasant and undemanding atmosphere of a college campus. Typically a USC freshman takes six years to receive an undergraduate degree; others take eight, bouncing from major to major until settling on the least-demanding field.
Which will create problems upon graduation, because the wage such a student is likely to earn will be inadequate to provide a future corresponding to expectations. At which point the betrayal will be complete. The young adult with few marketable skills but an enormous sense of self-worth nurtured both by overgenerous parents and indulgent institutions will be loosed on an indifferent and demanding world. Expect tears, then rage, then wrecking. What a shameful and easily-avoided end.
Shame on you, Lori Loughlin. Shame on you, Felicity Huffman. Shame on you, William Singer. And on you, USC. And on the rest of you who were involved. In your egoism, your cupidity, your uncaring thirst for the easy way out, you damaged us all.
Shame on you.
Morgan Liddick writes weekly column for the Summit Daily News.
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