Founder and CEO, LifeLaunchr
San Francisco, Calif.
One big victim who may now face a harder road is the student who needs and deserves extra time on tests. I write as the parent of one such former student, who took years to learn how to read; whose keen intelligence, determination, and grit have been appreciated by elementary-school teachers, athletic coaches, college professors, and professional managers; and who is now enjoying a successful career after finishing college with flying colors in the four years it was supposed to take. Yes, she availed herself of the special services she deserved in high school, based on documentation going back to first grade. No, there was no asterisk next to her SAT scores denoting extra time, as well there should not have been.
It wasn’t just those wealthy parents who cheated but the licensed psychologists who said that those students, the scions of privilege, deserved extra time on their tests. The rot goes deep, and those professionals should lose their licenses.
I can only hope that the ACT and SAT will not penalize the kids who need that service the most, because for many of them, time-and-a-half for testing is the absolute key to their success. In public schools, those accommodations are often hard-won.
Peggy Lee Scott
Readers responded on Facebook:
Lew Walker wrote: That such schemes exist comes as absolutely no surprise to anyone. Not today. We have become so inured to such criminal corruption that we just chalk it up to the ways of the “haves” and the “have mores.”
But the final few paragraphs point to a deeper more powerful 21st century manifestation; the erosion of the power and privilege of the white majority.
Bill Leonard wrote: An important point that doesn’t get enough attention: this is undoubtedly as much about bragging rights for the parents as it is for their kids actual education. These parents are lying, cheating and willing to bribe coaches, etc. so they can one-up their friends and colleagues with ‘Well my Katie was accepted by _____(fill in the name of a prestigious school).
Joseph Rago wrote: As I read this my 5 year old daughter stumbled into the room awakened by a nightmare. I hope there’s an admission for clairvoyance at the school of her desire. I’m certain that the horror of middle class realization I felt must have permeated her dreams.
Caitlin Flanagan replies:
Regarding JB Haglund’s remarks about underprivileged students: The elite colleges have made a concerted, decades-long effort to include students from a variety of financial backgrounds among their number. Harvard, for example, claims that more than 70 percent of its undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, and that 20 percent of parents pay no tuition at all. On the other hand, the university is currently embroiled in a scandal in which the father of a future fencer bought the coach’s house at a price that was hundreds of thousands of dollars over market value, after which the man’s son was admitted to the university. So who knows what really goes on at that storied and mysterious institution?
Actually, all of us should know exactly what goes on: We all subsidize the university, allowing it to operate as a tax-exempt institution. We haven’t taken our fair share of its $39.2 billion endowment because we have always trusted the university. Perhaps it’s time for a full and transparent audit of its admissions practices and decisions over the past 10 years. Or it can write us a check. The same is true of all of our ultra-selective colleges and universities: We are all stakeholders.