From the article:
A ProPublica editor who investigated how the rich buy their children’s way into elite colleges reflects on the latest scandal—and remembers when affluent readers mistook his expose for a “how-to” guide.
Last week my feeds blew up with this. I was letting is simmer, but to give you an idea:
- Not Content With All Their Regular Privilege, 50 Rich and/or Famous People Charged in Massive College Bribery Scam
- A righteous mother charged in the college cheating scandal scolded others about cheating on Instagram
- Ringleader of college admissions scandal now admits he helped over 750 families sneak their way into college
- USC Suspends Accounts Of Students Allegedly Linked To Admissions Bribery Scandal
I remember when I first heard of that rich folks can get into college as a “legacy admission.” I was playing in a Call of Cthulhu table top game, and one of the players wanted to play a debutante that was in college as a legacy admission. I had never heard of this, nor had anyone else. We had to stop and look it up.
It turns out, if you are rich enough, and have familial relationship to alumni, the college can just let you in. This is not something that happens in other countries. This is something that happens in elite universities in the US.
These students have a substantially lower GPS and SAT scores, but they get in anyways. According to the linked wiki, being a legacy ups your chances to get into an elite college by 19.7%. This is from a 2005 study.
I was completely fucking outraged then, because I had been under the illusion that the US educational system was a meritocracy. That is was the one place where your hard work could pay off, and you could get ahead. As it turns out, that’s not really true. Here’s a great article about that illusion: Higher Education and the Illusion of Meritocracy
Our educational system is anything but a meritocracy based on your intelligence and educational progress and hard work. The only thing this scandal has brought to light, is that these rich and/or famous folks skipped the legacy system and all the other pay for play legal options with college admissions, and went to blatant outright cheating in a pay for play kind of deal.
I agree with the Meritocracy article that there is an every day admissions process that literally cuts out those students from poor and middle class backgrounds in favor of higher income students? Even without this giant cheating scandal, this is happening in our colleges every day.
In short, the real corruption of elite-college admissions is more mundane than this scandal suggests, though far more deleterious to America’s meritocratic ideals. To view this scandal as the problem is to unintentionally reinforce the actual problem: In a truly meritocratic society, higher education should correct inequity; instead, elite higher education exacerbates inequity.
The irony is that this scandal can look like an argument for restoring a meritocratic system that wealthy people are trying to subvert through extreme measures. That’s simply not the case. As Doron Taussig, an assistant professor of journalism at Ursinus College who is working on a book about perceptions of meritocracy, told me: “Flaws in meritocracy are defined as problems because they are violations of meritocracy,” but rarely are they taken as evidence that meritocracy is a bad or incoherent idea.
In other words, this isn’t a system wealthy people have to subvert; it’s a system set up for them to participate in without guile or palm-greasing. If falsified ACT scores and Photoshopped water-polo pictures were what corruption looked like, we could solve it. But the problem isn’t the criminal subversion of meritocracy, it’s the mundane ways in which the illusion of meritocracy perpetuates itself and gets us to buy in.
This doesn’t even cover the other college issues. Cheating is a common thing. When I got my accounting degree I was astounded by the number of business/accounting majors that just outright cheated. They bought prefab tests online with the answers, used electronic translators to look up answers on google, or just read the damn book on them, or just literally asked.
I had a guy in my class look over at my carefully written notes, and literally ask me in the middle of a test if he could borrow them, reach over and take them, and then use them to get an A whereas he had gotten a D last test. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING TEST. I just turned my stuff in, and packed up, but damn.
When I went to school for nursing, this would have been unheard of, and grounds for expulsion. Yet, when I went to a business college, literally half the students were engaging on some form of cheating. I was offered tests online. I saw tests that students had bought being brought into testing so they could match up answers. (The gal that did this still got a C, I mean how?!)
If we want our institutions of learning to have meaning, all this has to change.