Opinion

Charles: This scandal is beyond disgusting

A woman I’ve known my entire life grew up in coal mining country during the Depression. She was smart, and showed early talent as an artist. She had won a contest for an art scholarship, but was too young to accept it as a young child, and was valedictorian of her high school class.

Eventually she found her way to a big metropolitan city, part of the Great Migration that promised opportunities not available in the Jim Crow south.

She worked, and went to school, managing to get two years of college at the Art Institute of Chicago before the money ran out and she had to go to work full time and give up her dream of becoming a commercial artist.

Determined that her children’s dreams wouldn’t be shut down the same way hers had been, my mother started saving money for her children’s college education before she had even met my father. Education, my parents agreed, was the one thing that couldn’t be taken away from you, even when institutional racism stood in your way.

I told this story to a close friend, who related how her parents, who also had three children, couldn’t save like that. Although they were white, they had no connections, and not a lot of disposable income as they lived working class lives in upstate New York. Her dad, a man of Polish heritage, didn’t have the money, or status, to go to Johns Hopkins — so he never became a doctor. Still they did what they could to help their kids get good college educations.

These stories are related, because while my parents and hers came from different worlds in many ways, they share several common threads; they sacrificed what they could and did all they could to give their children (and grandchildren) opportunities they never had; and the idea of cheating their way through life never entered their minds.

I am beyond disgusted with the current college bribery scandal.

We want to blame everything and everyone involved for the toxicity of entitled rich people who decided long ago that the rules don’t apply to them.

But truthfully, rich people’s “affirmative action” has been going on for centuries.

There has never been a level playing field, with this country’s principles being founded on the assertion that only rich, white landowning men should have a voice and a vote. Later, when Polish, Italian and Irish immigrants arrived, they were given “white” status (but not an end to their poverty) to keep them from joining with poor former slaves in a coalition that would have demanded a change in the status quo, and equality for all.

So why are we surprised that rich celebrities, or less famous, but equally affluent people, decided their kids should take up space at elite colleges that other families weren’t allowed access to?

Americans are great at talking about the ideals of fairness — as long as we get what we want first.

Higher education, through college or technical school, has long been the goal for many parents and children. Some people are able to put away a little bit every month, take out a second mortgage, fill out the student loan forms, apply and then pray for scholarships and grants. For the majority of us, pulling out a checkbook to pay someone to take a test for your child, fabricating athletic prowess, and then figuring out a way to write off the dirty deed as a charity, is simply an anathema.

And the arrogance and lack of remorse is just as shameful.

Seriously, Lori Loughlin signing autographs and smiling on her way to court as if she were on the red carpet heading into a gala, was sickening.

Smile and wave, Lori, just smile and wave.

At least Felicity Hoffman gave a proper apology this week and sounded chastened. It sounded heartfelt, but one wonders if it will be enough to keep her out of jail.

And how would you like to be the kid whose parents thought you were so stupid they had to pay six figures to get you into college?

The worst thing here is that there are no winners.

Trust-fund babies are being brought down and publicly humiliated by parents who apparently don’t think very highly of their own children, or believe in fair play. These people could have paid for tutors — something plenty of lesser-heeled parents have been able to do. Instead they decided that bragging rights for elite admissions were more important than actually shepherding their offspring through a difficult time of life. Anyone who has gone through the college selections wars knows of what I speak.

The universities who looked the other way have their own stink to overcome. Big deal if you’re rich now if you went to an elite school. Did you buy your way in, have dear old mom and dad dedicate a brand new building and voila, or were you photoshopped onto the water polo/lacrosse/soccer team? What’s that big time diploma worth now, since it can be bought by people who have publicly proclaimed the abject stupidity of their never-have-to-work-a-day-in-their-lives children?

I know people get into colleges many ways. Some are legacies, others are great at standardized tests, still others are great at essay writing and the interview process. Education is one thing that can even the playing field across all income levels. It’s a struggle for many parents, who are juggling rents, or mortgage payments, day-to-day living, and keeping our heads above water.

You’ll find no sympathy for these wealthy scofflaws here.

There’s nothing more disheartening and infuriating than finding out there are whole swaths of people who already have more than their fair share — and are ready, willing, and able, to take even more.

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