Quote of the Day:

How pervasive is the mentality that everyone needs to go to college? Apparently so pervasive that even celebrity parents believe their “social-media influencer” children need four years at a good school. “Look, honey, you’ll never be the next Kim Kardashian without at least an undergrad degree, and maybe grad school.”

— National Review's Jim Geraghty in a blog item headlined "The Magic Talisman of a Degree from One of the Best Schools"


Move over sex scandals.

College entrance scandal is here and, as Geraghty notes, it is weird and keeps getting weirder.

"Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, who rose to fame on a show called "Fuller House," give the scandal star power.

Huffman and Loughlin are among the 50 charged by the feds in 270-page complaint that details what is billed as the most massive college entrance scam ever.

Rich parents like Huffman and Loughlin allegedly bribed and cheated in other fascinating ways to get their kids into top colleges. News reports say that some parents allegedly paid $6.5 million to get their offspring in a name brand school.

Here is a barebones description of the scam, as outlined in the complaint:

California resident William Rick Singer was pinpointed as the "ringleader" of the scandal, allegedly helping wealthy parents get their children admitted to some of the nation’s most elite schools — such as Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, University of Southern California, among others — through bribes, according to unsealed court documents. Some individuals purportedly paid close to $6.5 million to secure a place for their children in top tier schools.

Prosecutors said parents paid Singer from 2011 through last month to bribe coaches and administrators to fill slots the universities allocated for new players with his clients' children, regardless of their athletic ability. Singer also allegedly hired ringers to take college entrance exams and paid off insiders at testing centers to alter students' scores, according to charging documents.

I admit: I can't get enough of this scandal. Its lurid details (you don't need sex to be lurid) make for the best non-fiction reading since the Starr Report. This story has some interesting details, including juicy emails from Felicity Huffman that you can enjoy here (Lynette, say it ain't so).

I am also fascinated with the scandal for what it says about the values of our society.

One little-commented upon detail is that one of the kids saw a 400 point rise in college entrance tests thanks to the scam. .

Was it really doing a big favor to this kid to get him or her into a topnotch school? (It might have been only 320 points–here is a story about a young woman whose score went up by that number, allegedly because of a helpful proctor who was willing to arrange to sit by her in a room alone during the test. She reportedly later bragged about cheating)

Geraghty has a good insight on why parents were willing to send kids to such supposedly hard schools even if they were unprepared–namely that hard schools are no longer hard:

These children apparently could not have gotten into these schools on their own merits. Do these schools have such a reputation for “if you’re in, you’re passing” that these wealthy parents felt confident that their kids would get acceptable grades, once enrolled? Is there some sort of special “parents are wealthy” grade curve or degree program with a lighter workload and easier requirements?

In other words, these parents did not envision sending their kids to these colleges so they could join what used to be called "the fellowship of educated men and women" but rather to get a credential.

It wasn't delving into the works of Plato and Aristotle that makes college so alluring for these rich parents.

Kids from less affluent backgrounds are willing to shoulder big debt to go to ollege, while these parents allegedly were willing to cheat for the privilege of a college degree from a "good" college.

The difference in earning power of the degreed (assuming they didn't major in Women's Studies and can get a job) and non degreed has to be a factor.

When it comes to the purely intellectual, however, college may not be such a benefit.  The campus has become such an indoctrination center that we are constantly reading about things like this and this.

My grandfather, even as a very old man, was still quoting mething the head of the school he attended as a boy: his school often said: Not all of your can be scholars, but all of you can be gentlemen, the school master said.

(I'm sure the same applied to young women, who might not all be scholars but could all be ladies, another term fordecent human beings).

Can you imagine what would happen if a guidance counselor at a prep school said something like that today?

You may not be Ivy League material but you can be virtuous and lead a life that means something?

A guidance counselor who said something this heretical would be shown the door in short order.

Even parents who play by the rules, merely hiring coaches to help kids with tests and the selection of extracurricular activities, would find that unappealing.

Can you imagine how it would go over with the parents named in this complaint, who are willing to pay bribes to  get their kids in colleges they could not enter otherwise?

This scandal,aside from being fascinating, might provoke a debate on why parents are so desperate and what we mean by getting an education.