The ongoing college admissions scandal requires our thoughtful discussion. These scandals rattle the foundations of the avowed and trusted “American dream.” From the time our children are quite young, we parents — across all income quintiles — dream of college as the means to the end of success. This scandal evokes distrust in the college system itself and smacks of inequality (another topic that rips at the foundations of American culture today). We see unfolding the very thing we worry about: The rich get privilege unobtainable to ordinary Americans, and by cheating, they secure their lofty positions in college and, presumably, later in life.
There are several important takeaways this story brings to light that require thoughtfulness and prayer: College isn’t for everyone. Elite college isn’t a ticket for lifelong success. And cheating doesn’t pay.
We live in a mythical culture in which it seems college is coveted at any cost. College is an important step in the process of intellectual development for some, but it isn’t necessary for everyone. In our culture, we push college on children who would be better off in trade school or apprenticeship or certification programs, and most of this pressure comes from parents. Our values are misguided.
College is not the crown jewel of our children’s existence, and because we wrongly push everyone to go, we end up with disillusioned children, over a third of whom drop out often saddled with debt. Then they’re left to figure out what’s next.
Moreover, attending an elite school is not a golden ticket for lifelong success or high incomes. If college is the right choice for your child, finding a college that fits your child is the most important criteria.
And cheating in this case — or any other — doesn’t pay in the long run. The silver lining of the scandal is that the guilty aren’t going to get away with it. The tragedy is that the children of these high-powered families involved in the scandal are the collateral damage, even if they were complicit. Children need guidance and mature wisdom as they age into adults. These parents have failed them in that regard and added to the loathsome entitlement culture of modern America.
The learning opportunity here is that we are creatures of God, made in his image, and we have purpose. We must cultivate and learn that purpose while our children are young and obediently guide them toward it.
What does that mean? Not everyone’s kid will be a doctor or lawyer — the world needs plumbers and foremen — and there is dignity in all of this work because God created us for it.