I’m having all kinds of feelings about the admissions scandal that hit the news last week. It seems that rich, powerful parents paid thousands of dollars to get their children into the best schools, on the best teams, and then the person who’s responsible for masterminding it, decided to tell everything.
My feelings are all over the place because #1, we still don’t know everything, despite wall to wall coverage; #2, all this time I’ve been thinking that education is the great equalizer but it’s not about equalization. It’s about money and power. Like with justice, you get the best you can buy; #4, despite shock and surprise at this scandal’s broad swath, there’s nothing new to see here.
Whether it’s kickbacks, rebates, greasing palms, payments under the table—call it whatever you like, but almost any time there’s money, access, and power involved, there’s fraud and corruption. Someone, somewhere, will exploit, extort, or abuse. As an official terrible-test taker, it never occurred to me that someone could take my GRE (Graduate Record Exam) or discreetly correct my answers for a huge fee. I whined about the questions, took it the second time, and watched as my scores got worse!
Most parents teach honor, honesty, integrity, do your best, do your share, work for what you want—do what’s right, all those things. “For we are taking pains to do what’s right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of all,”* is how 2 Corinthians 8:21 eloquently puts it. If we expect to have a society that’s fit to live in, we can’t allow the new children’s lesson to be “We want you to have the best but don’t work at or for it. We’ll do whatever it takes to get what you want and deserve. That’s why you have us.”
We want our children to be healthy, happy, and prosperous, and not “suffer” like we did. I remember swearing I’d never make my children work, or I’d never spank them—I lied. It took a minute to realize that chores teach responsibility and if you love your children, you will discipline them. Sometimes that means you have to say no.
Most parents will go without to make sure their children have the latest fashions, shoes, cool cars, or whatever they need. That hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. I remember my Murray State University professor, Dr. William Ray Mofield, told us this poignant story when I was a graduate student there 400 years ago. He grew up dirt poor and his mother was helping him pay for college by selling eggs. He had an important competition and he told his mother he needed new shoes. As he fretted about how they’d manage, she prayed and reassured him that everything would work out. It did—she sold the chickens to get what he needed.
Friends, this slippery slope of a playing field gets scarier and more uneven every day. Income disparities in this country are Grand Canyon-deep and Mississippi River-wide and running four million stories across the screens and headlines won’t fix what’s at the heart of this scandal.
The rich and the rest of us see with different lenses and the funds used to buy one privileged spot could provide scholarships or grants for many who’d love to go but won’t get the opportunity. Sorry, I’ve gotten carried away again, spending other folks’ money. Let’s pray some of that money, privilege, and access finds its way to real need.
*Original says “man” but changed to be inclusive.
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