Nearly two weeks after the college admissions scandal broke, the conversation about ethics and equality in the college admissions process already seems to be dying down. For a hot minute there, everyone actually seemed concerned about the deeply-rooted inequality plaguing our higher education system, but now it’s back to watching Amy Schumer specials and catching up on “Game of Thrones.” It was nice while it lasted.
However, this scandal is about much more than Aunt Becky from “Full House” and her YouTube-vlogger daughter. The events and motives for what happened need to be explored more deeply. It’s not the kind of news story that should be able to disappear after only a few weeks. We need to talk about the way cheating has become disguised as “getting ahead” and the reasons that people are drawn to these measures in the first place.
I went to a small all-girls private high school. When I was in 9th grade, I met a girl named Emily. She could never hang out after school. At 2:55 every day, her au-pair pulled up to school in the family’s Black Escalade and swallowed her up into a mysterious abyss of questions I learned not to ask. But one day, I finally did. She told me she was seeing a tutor. For what? I asked. SAT subjects tests, she responded, as if it were obvious. Despite being chronically oblivious to everything, even I knew what those were. And I knew you didn’t take them until at least junior year.
There are 100,000 ways to get ahead in life, no matter what you’re trying to do. Parents can hire nannies and housekeepers. Bodybuilders can take steroids. Singers can use auto-tune. Emily used an SAT tutor at 14 years old. You get the idea. But when does “getting ahead” become cheating? When does cheating become a felony? The line between these actions seems to have become radically blurred and, in some cases, entirely non-existent.
The less controversial ways to “get ahead” are, in my opinion, more dangerous because they are so common. SAT tutors. College counselors. The family you were born into. The lifestyle you have. You don’t have to bribe with half a million dollars to achieve this. Sometimes, you don’t have to spend any money at all. But no one talks about that.
The bottom line: there are fair and legal ways to cheat. The playing field will never really be equal until we do something about that. Some of my high school friends worked part-time jobs every day after school while others went home to their housekeeper’s fresh-baked granola bites and a highly reputable tutor waiting for them at their white marble kitchen countertop. No one was cheating. No one was committing a felony. Something was definitely wrong, though. Not with the people, but with the system that allowed girls from such vastly different backgrounds and opportunities to be in competition for the same spot at a university.
Also, making an example out of Lori Loughlin really isn’t helping. Even the most powerful and well connected person in the world can easily point their finger at Lori and say, “God, I would NEVER do that.” Yet, they find a million other legal and accessible ways to achieve the same end-goal.
I think the worst part of all is that it doesn’t end. We’re in college now. We’re done with the competitive crap. Right? Wrong. Now there’s Adderall, networking and grade inflation. Inequality doesn’t have an endpoint. It’s going to take a lot more than fixing the college admission process to fix the deeply rooted divisions in our country, and it’s going to take a lot more than Olivia Jade to do it.
Contact Kara Schindler at email@example.com.