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Is the College Cheating Scandal the Apex of the Over-Parenting Epidemic?

When all of childhood is considered college prep, desperate parents will do desperate things.

LoughlinGregg DeGuire/UPI/NewscomToday's parents are stalked by the twin fears that their kids will be kidnapped, raped, and eaten—or not get into Harvard.

When either of those fears reaches a boiling point, parents do crazy things. I once got a letter from a 15-year-old whose father wouldn't let him out of the house, even to walk to the school bus stop, because he could be "abducted or killed." So while he was allowed to play video games at home, eat snacks, and watch TV, he could not take a ball to the park. "I don't want my kids, if I ever even have kids," he wrote, "to live like me at all."

His parents were so afraid of him being kidnapped that they essentially kidnapped him.

And now we hear that some wealthy parents were so afraid of their kids not getting into the right schools that they got them into the wrong schools—schools where their kids most likely did not belong. To accomplish this, they cheated. They bribed coaches and paid-off test providers.

There is no excuse for this behavior. But we live in a society where childhood is essentially college prep, and nothing else. To many parents, admission to a good school is the be-all and end-all.

Whether that's because we believe an elite school guarantees economic security for life, or because it confers prestige on the parent and child, or because we live in a sort of brand-crazed culture that worships Princeton diplomas—or for all of these reasons at once—the college admissions game has been ratcheted up to the point where even tots are in training. Recall the kindergarten that cancelled its play so the kids could have more test prep time. "The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple," read a note sent home to parents. "We are responsible for preparing children for college and career."

At Let Grow, the non-profit I co-founded, we think that if kids have some free time, they flourish. This is time to discover, wander, play, goof off, and find something that interests them. When kids are truly taken with something, they usually end up developing all sorts of skills that will serve them really well in the classroom and beyond: persistence, curiosity, focus. Let's replace some resume-building time with free time. Think of it as building a "resume for life."

Kids also flourish when they know their worth is not measured in grades, trophies, or the college banner on the wall.

We can dial back the college thing by thinking about all the amazing people we love or admire who didn't go to Harvard—or maybe college at all.

And finally, think back to your own childhood. Aren't you glad that it wasn't all about college, college, college? That your life had some meaning and joy beyond that?

Now that the cheating scandal has broken, my wish for those kids is the same thing I wish for all kids. To not be defined by their worst moment. To be able to love their parents and themselves despite it all. And to grow.

Photo Credit: Gregg DeGuire/UPI/Newscom

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    And now we hear that some wealthy parents were so afraid of their kids not getting into the right schools that they got them into the wrong schools—schools where their kids most likely did not belong. To accomplish this, they cheated. They bribed coaches and paid-off test providers.

    Who would have thought that Helicopter Parenting was bad parenting like all the other bad parenting out there?

    Maybe some of those past parenting techniques were not that bad, after all.

  • Freddy the Jerk||

    Case in point: cuyuzedifbot never went to college, and now it's not only managed to reproduce, but it's also making $180 per hour!

    College, smollege!

  • Freddy the Jerk||

    Google spambot, however, went to an Ivy League school, and it's only making $77 per hour. *And* it can't get a date.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Just think if Pedo Jeffy had been properly beaten by his parents. He might not be such a sniveling little sophist, and supporter of illegal alien pedophiles.

  • Ben_||

    No, the trend will continue. High status people with little talent will seek to maintain their advantages. People will continue to watch the news and think "it's all about me".

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Is the College Cheating Scandal the Apex of the Over-Parenting Epidemic?

    No, Millennials are the Apex of the Over-Parenting Epidemic.

  • Brandybuck||

    How long until one of these children sues their rich parents for utterly failing them? Not for this cheating of course, because the students had to be in on it. But at some point, perhaps their 30s, they have to be aware that they were not prepared for life itself. Someone like Brittny or Lindsay don't care, but when you're child of a B actress and can't land that acting job, it's gotta sting to be barrista. If you can even manage to keep a job like that.

    Yeah, all parents are overly protective in some way. I definitely had it cushier than the generation before me. But sometimes modern kids seems like they're in plastic bubble wrap.

  • Crusty Juggler - Lawbertarian||

    Sweeping generalization: confirmed.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    If you can't sweep with your generalizations, why make them?

  • Longtobefree||

    The scandal is about money and power, not parenting.
    Maybe if it was as hard to get a breeding permit as it is to get a gun permit, we would have fewer of these 'scandals'.

  • Ghatanathoah||

    If these parents have the money and power necessary to bribe their kids into the Ivy League they would also have the money and power to bribe the Fertility Board.

  • Mongo||

    An Ape X pilots a UFO can emit lazer beams from his eyes.

  • Freddy the Jerk||

    Indeed!

    Now I see why you're only pawn in game of life. And I bet you went to community college.

  • IceTrey||

    I just don't understand why a Hollywood star like Loughlin would have to go to such lengths to get her kid into USC. A word here, a nice donation there and Bob's your uncle.

  • Brandybuck||

    Maybe her kid was a dunderhead...

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I think her videos confirmed that.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    And finally, think back to your own childhood. Aren't you glad that it wasn't all about college, college, college?

    Actually, it pretty much was.

  • Ray McKigney||

    Mine didn't hit that stage until I told my parents I wasn't going to apply to college.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    I burned out. I was accepted to a few schools, but ended up going to a community college and then worked for a few years. When I was ready, I went back, ended up with a masters in engineering. In a way, it all worked out.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Cheaper probably too since you knew the value of money since you worked.

  • Ray McKigney||

    What really has surprised me about this is that people were paying $100,000s to get their kids into USC and UT. Are there people who long for the cachet of a USC or UT undergrad degree?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Slightly different kind of virtue signalling based on college.

    Wait until we circle back around to High School non-grads being so kewl.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    USC is a top-tier private university. For people on the West Coast, getting a degree from USC, Berkeley, or Stanford is a significant status marker, and for people living in LA in particular, USC is the one in closest proximity.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    USC also has a well known Cinematic Arts School.

  • NoVaNick||

    The blue bloods like the Rockefellers and politicians don't have to pull this kind of shit to get their kids into an Ivy-an occasional contribution to the endowment will do. I attended an Ivy and knew some of these kids and they were dumb as bricks. Bribing coaches and test takers seems to be more of a celebrity/nouveau riche thing.

  • NoVaNick||

    They want their stupid kids to have access to the same opportunities

  • Gozer the Gozarian||

    I am too fucking self-centered to be a good person.

    Dictatorships always work because you have a workforce motivated to stay alive just one more day. Do you think Democracy could have built the pyramids? Bah!

  • JoeB||

    As the middle class shrinks, the population will have a dumbbell ;-b distribution, the elites and the proles. Elites have money, property, and global opportunity. They are not subject to the winds of politics or oppressive regimes. Inflation is their friend. The proles work, eat, reproduce, and die. Inflation is their enemy. If you are not an elite now, the only chance for your kids is to obtain the imprimatur and make the connections at one of these schools. The quality of education is irrelevant. There remain few other means for upward mobility. If they don't get in, they go to state schools, smaller private schools, community colleges, etc., they and their progeny remain proles, in the future it will become even more difficult to join the elites, and the world will be overwhelmed by scarcity.

  • NoVaNick||

    Actually, a recent study suggests that going to an elite college doesn't do much for you if you are already an elite. But I doubt they will give up slots at Harvard and Stanford for their inbred offspring so Bob the truck driver can send his kid there.

  • CE||

    My dad was a truck driver and I got in.

  • CE||

    Whether that's because we believe an elite school guarantees economic security for life, or because it confers prestige on the parent and child, or because we live in a sort of brand-crazed culture that worships Princeton diplomas.

    Some of these celebrity kids already had economic security for life, and the parents already had prestigious careers of their own. It's just all for bragging rights, and proving you're a good parent by where your kid got admitted.

  • Heresy Hunter||

    This story brings up an interesting point: the technical definition of bribery. If bribery is merely paying someone more for something normally at a lower price or at lower price for other people, how is it not a perfectly legitimate form of capitalism at work?

    I'm not saying the parents of these kids aren't guilty of lying or breaking school policy, but how is "bribery" illigal? Can a rich person seeking the best education available not use his money to buy it?

    In most scenarios, like this one, bribery will necessarily "influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust." While this may pose a terrible problem for the school that must be dealt with, any law forbidding bribery is entirely based on whatever the school policy may be.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but bribery doesn't sound like much of an actual crime at all.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    It's not the bribery, it's the fraud. The parents gave money disguised as "charitable donations" to a test-taking service to submit phony SAT and ACT tests scores, and gave money to college coaches to classify their kids as recruits when they'd never played the sport in their life. In the latter, the kids would often be designated by the coaches as "injured" despite never setting foot inside a locker room.

    That's why these people are federally fucked and their kids are facing expulsion.

  • Arcxjo||

    In the athletic part, who or what is the actual victim? All of the rostered athletes who still get all the same playing time they normally would?

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Why does there have to be a "victim" here? If you lie about something, shouldn't you have to face the consequences for it?

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    In short, people with a shit-ton of money can already afford to pay the tuition needed to get their kids to attend school, but had to figure out fraudulent means to get their kids admitted because their offspring were often not smart enough to qualify even after a lifetime of private tutors.

  • jdgalt1||

    More than anything else, this story illustrates why the notion of some libertarians that parents should be allowed to raise their children exactly as they please is misguided. Children deserve some rights. And all parental aughority needs to end earlier than it does.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    More than anything else, this story illustrates why the notion of some libertarians that parents should be allowed to raise their children exactly as they please is misguided.

    Bribing coaches and submitting false SAT/ACT scores hardly falls under the umbrella of legitimate parental authority.

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