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Helicopter parents on crack

Where have our integrity and accountability gone? What are we really teaching our children?

I just read a story in the NY Times about 50 people including 2 Hollywood actresses that were charged by the Justice Department for their roles in a College Admissions cheating scandal. The headline did not grab my attention, but the details of the case sure did. I’ll share a few with you here:

  • A teenage girl who did not play soccer magically became a star soccer recruit at Yale. The cost to her parents: $1.2 million.

  • A high school boy eager to enroll at the University of Southern California was falsely deemed to have a learning disability so he could take his standardized test with a complicit proctor who would make sure he got the right score. The cost to his parents: at least $50,000.

  • A student with no experience rowing won a spot on the USC crew team after a photograph of another person in a boat was submitted as evidence of her prowess. Her parents wired $200,000 into a special account.

This got me thinking. What in the world are these parents teaching their children? After a few hours of contemplation, the answer came to me. They're showing their children how they got to the top. These so-called ‘well-meaning’ parents are teaching their offspring how to CHEAT.

These parents never believed in the golden rule - to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Nope, these parents achieved their success in life by believing in another rule which is, If you want to get ahead in life, you must cheat the system no matter who it hurts. Look at the amount of money these parents are accused of bribing others with. OMG!

College graduation rates in our country are not great. In fact, they are downright disgraceful. Depending on what source you go by, 30% of college students leave after the first year and 50% never graduate. That makes me wonder how much more money these parents will have to pump into the ‘system’ to get the kids to graduation?

I have a hard time imagining myself saying something like this to one of my kids:

  • I know SAT’s are tough son, but here’s a check for $50,000. Give it to the person administering the test and everything will work out just fine.

  • You’re going to have to take swimming lessons this summer son because your mother and I just spent $1.2 million to get you on the college swim team next year.

  • You're flunking out? That’s OK, I’ll just right another check to keep you enrolled in a college where you can’t seem to learn anything.

Yeah right, never happen. - But wait, maybe I'm wrong.

Maybe this is how things get done in America these days. Maybe I should stop teaching my kids to get good grades in school, be respectful, have integrity, to be responsible, and be good leaders. Maybe I'm the fool. Maybe my values are warped and my children's future will suffer because of it.

These charges underscore how corrupt universities and colleges have become at every level. We normally hear about corruption in big-time college sports programs. You know the kind of story I’m talking about. Coach ‘X’ at college ‘Y” was charged with crime “Z” for receiving payment of “$$” from company “A” in a scheme to get student-athletes to wear sneaker “B”. These folks are rarely held accountable for their actions.

Stories like the admission scandal show us that corruption can exist at every level at every university and college in the country. The college admissions process is cutthroat and competitive. These two elements provide a breeding ground for corruption in any system if it is left unchecked by respectable people with integrity.

It is obvious to me that universities and colleges are far more concerned with collecting money at the door than they are living up to the standards they themselves placed upon their institutions of providing a good education to the most deserving students.

The current admissions process allows rich parents to provide their over privileged and under deserving children access to universities and colleges by cheating other hard-working students out of a chance at a college education. Whether or not the Justice Department holds these parents accountable for their actions remains to be seen. I have my suspicions the punishment will fall short of the crime as it usually does for the wealthiest people in our country.

This story of cheating reminded me of a quote by Stephen Covey who is the author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’:

“The more people rationalize cheating, the more it becomes a culture of dishonesty. And that can become a vicious, downward cycle. Because suddenly, if everyone else is cheating, you feel a need to cheat, too.”

Sadly, this quote is so true about so many things in American culture.

So, I ask you, where has our integrity and accountability gone? What are we really teaching our children?


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