Beat JENeration #029: College Cheating Scandal, no freaking duh. Parents suck.

Considering the world is ripping apart with hatred and violence, why is the college cheating scandal is still filling up my news feed?

Granted, I work at a university, I have two kids in high school, and most of my friends have children with lofty college ambitions enrolled in high-performing prep schools. So, maybe it’s just me.

But, c’mon. To call this is a “scandal” feels a tad excessive. No freaking duh this happened!

The only surprise is that these parents paid that much money up front. Since their kids weren’t getting scholarships or hardship tuition breaks, they are forking over full asking price for four years (probably more…because bitch, please….they don’t strike me as the type to graduate on time). Plus, we should also take into consideration future bribes required to keep academic probation at bay. Ghost written term papers don’t come cheap.

But I have so many other thoughts on this whole deal. So so many. So, let’s dig in. 

Disclaimer: Everything I write comes from a place of Privilege.

First of all, fuck off all you people who don’t find me funny because you want to make this “scandal” the populist issue of our time.

If you want to point out every advantage, let me not apologize for life not being fair. Hells yeah, I have privilege up the yang.

I stayed home with my kids until they were in middle school. We were able to move to the best public school district in the county for Kindergarten (because I believed in public schools, but not enough to enroll my kids in the No Child Left Behind one in my quasi-gentrified hipster neighborhood). We were able to get them private lessons and drive them to community theatre auditions and (way too many) rehearsals that would later enable them to compete for admission at one of the most selective performing arts high schools in the country. And then we were able to move closer to that school so they wouldn’t have to commute 3 hours a day to attend. (OMG, I’ve done so much for them — they should be nicer to me!)

I don’t have an unprivileged leg to stand on, but I didn’t cheat. I’m not a helicopter, snowplow, whatever the next catchphrase in bad parenting is. Parenting’s not easy, but it’s also not that hard either. Of course, yeah, waiting 17 years and then writing a big fat check would have been easier.

However, I’ve read enough comments sections over the past two weeks to know that it doesn’t matter how up front I am, I’m the devil. Whatever I’ve done makes it unfair for someone else who didn’t have the same advantages. (Put a pin in that thought).

You’re Paying What for Safety Schools?

I  can kind-of-sort-of wrap my head around the price tag for a single-digit-acceptance-rate school like Stanford or an Ivy, but the list of colleges involved had my mind reeling. Obviously I’m missing a piece of the puzzle. No tea, no shade USC and USD, but I happen to know your acceptance rates. USC’s acceptance rate is 17.7% (but looking at past data they’ve taken Freshman with ACTs as low as 19 and SAT scores around the 1080 mark — and I know of a recently accepted GPA of 2.49, weighted). University of San Diego has a 51.7% acceptance rate. In comparison, my alma mater, the lowly, but beautiful state school down street, San Diego State University (Go Aztecs!), has a 34% acceptance rate, but your ass better have something closer to a 3.6 with some serious APs. So, basically, in my world view, these are what many would call Safety Schools. Really nice and fancy sounding safety schools, but still.

Aren’t There Legal Routes to Using Wealth for College Acceptance?

If you have the money to hire tutors and coaches, pay elite prep school tuition, and afford the full sticker price of a private university, but your kid still can’t get a legit acceptance to an accredited college — maybe higher education isn’t the road to pursue. Or maybe Arizona State is exactly the right place.

I didn’t mean that. It’s hotter than the fucking sun there and State politics are whack, but I only mock ASU because (I went to a far superior party school, again…Go Aztecs!…and) it’s topical. Trumphumper Mossimo guy emailed a cooperating witness that he wanted to “make sure we have a roadmap for success as it relates to [our daughter] and getting her into a school other than ASU!” Sun Devils, you didn’t deserve that. I’ve seen Olive Jade’s videos, Aunt Becky would have had to have paid you guys off to take her too. 

Oh, that’s right. It’s Not About The Kid

Where your kid goes to school is a badge of honor in some circles. I get it, sometimes it’s all you’ve got. But this week with college acceptances coming out fresh and hot, maybe this a good time to think about whose accomplishment it really is. Should it be the parent bragging about it or should the announcement (and praise) be the sole domain of the applicant? (Put a pin in that too.)

I have witnessed a lot of shitty parenting in my life time. The woke bitches at Scary Mommy tell you to not judge other moms — that we’re all in this together — but that’s bull caca. If we can’t judge the people creating the future adults we have to live with, then who should we be judging?

Let’s list all the other moms we hate:

  • Tiger Moms
  • Best Friend Moms
  • Working Moms Who Judge PTA Moms
  • Stay At Home Moms Who Judge Working Moms
  • Dance (insert Stage, Pageant, Soccer, Volleyball, whatever offends you personally least) Moms
  • Anti-Vaxxer Moms
  • My Kids Are Perfect Moms

What they all have in common is that they are personally too invested in the success of the kids. (Except the Anti-Vaxxers, they are just delusional). Yes, yes, yes…the whole point of being a good parent is being invested in your children’s future, but there’s a limit and it’s not suppose to encroach on your personal worth. 

Dude, get a hobby. Your kids are not your hobby. And their hobbies, are not your hobbies. They are also not your best friend.  You already had your chance for stardom, college, youth— let it go. 

Perfect Children….Ha! (Let’s Gather Those Pins)

I have two fabulous daughters, but it will be no surprise to them that they aren’t perfect. Not even close. A lot of people in our house are collectively losing their shit daily. And while I’m honest with my friends on a one on one basis about the low points, it’s not exactly fair to out my teenagers’ problems on social media. Which means sometimes all anyone sees is what is fit for public posting — and that probably makes it look like I’ve perfected parenting.

Except, I haven’t. Which is how I know that what’s posted by other moms is only a sliver of the story.

But I might have an advantage because I’m cynical. When someone starts invoking their higher power’s mumbo jumbo — before I block them — I see them questioning their faith. People who truly believe in their mythology don’t need to tell you about it. It just is. Also, if you tell me how much you love your spouse and it isn’t their birthday or you brag about how much sex you are having, all I hear is a cry for divorce attorney recommendations.

So when parents (usually moms, that’s just the way it is) post only about their child’s wins, what is happening to the parents who don’t read into what’s not being written? How shitty does it make them feel?

But it’s more than social media. Sometimes kids actually come off as super pulled-together IRL. Look at their standardized-test scores, the year-round sports, endless AP credits, multiple community service projects, the way they never seem to go through an awkward phase, and how they rattle off witty banter full of grad-school vocab as if they’re starring in an Aaron Sorkin penned WB drama. These are not the teenagers I went to high school with! 

Someone’s to blame for creating these perfect teen robots with impressive resumes. But seeing can’t always be believing. Nearly 90 percent of college students say they have cheated and somewhere between 15 and 40 percent of high-school students have abused prescription drugs as study aids. I know these stories first hand (though through other kids, never the actual parents) and remember, these are the kids with all the advantages of life. They go to the best schools and have outrageous amounts of parental support. They are worlds away from kids who have to raise themselves or worry about being shot on the way to school (of course all kids now have to worry about being shot while in school, sadly.) I’d like to know who I’m supposed to blame for this? Millennials?

College is so much harder to get into now, but let’s be honest — that’s not for all kids equally. The more money you have, the stronger the advantage. The whole pay for play college scandal was really robbing places from middle-class and up kids. The ones who were perfecting their dossiers with elite sports. Which is not to say that there shouldn’t be a bigger, louder rage about the high school kids who can’t compete for spots sans the privilege — but that’s another column.

Most parents in my social circle began prepping their precious darlings concurrently with potty-training. They start within the system of selective preschools within a 20-mile radius and end with flying around the country (world, actually) taking their progeny to college auditions, interviews, tours, etc. This is the norm now — and well documented throughout Facebook every Spring. God forbid someone posts about community college as an option in that climate. 

When did doing the smart, affordable thing suddenly become something you need to downplay?

Though truth be told, I will be guilty of racking up those frequent flier miles on auditions and visits next year. And before someone tries to out me, why yes, I have already flown my kids to different cities on college tours. And I’m currently waiting in perhaps too much anticipation to find out which rising-Senior college summer programs they will be accepted to.

While I haven’t written any checks, offered any bribes, or done any part of the actual applications, I still feel kind of icky about own my level of investment. Because this is about them — not me. I’m also pissy that by seeing what the other kids and parents did before me that I was possibly pressured into all of this.  Do you know what I did the summer before my Senior year? I worked part-time at Target, went dancing in LA with a fake ID, went to the beach, and not much else. This is probably because my mom wasn’t on Facebook.

What Do We Do About It?

Girl, please! I don’t have answers.

Except maybe don’t post about your kids anymore once they are old enough to be on social media. Maybe only talk about your own accomplishments. Focus your need for validation on your kids being good humans and loving themselves for who they are. 

Bottom line: if you have to break the law, do your kids’ work, or take credit in your kid’s achievement, you have bigger problems. Work on that.