As more information emerges about the SAT-cheating scandal on Long Island, it has become clear that this isn’t a story about kids. Parents and school officials have gone off the rails. As the NYT reports, parents did nothing as their children paid stand-ins as much as $3,600 to catapult their scores into the 2100 range; school officials knew that cheating was happening, but refused to act as long as there were no obvious scandals; and test administrators convinced themselves that a female student could look like this.
Many of the fraudulent test-takers’ parents were community leaders:
The suspected test takers came from prominent, respected families, some of them in financial distress — among the five facing felony charges were the sons of a well-known lawyer, the president of the local library board and a wealthy philanthropic family.
Maybe the parents rather than the kids should be standing there in handcuffs, facing jail time. As there are not many high school students in this country who a) have $3,600 in spare change on hand and b) are willing to pay that kind of money for an SAT score, it is obvious that in virtually every case the parents of these young people did more than stand by. These parents are bad; they are ruining the moral character of their own kids while doing their best to steal a place in a prestigious college from honest ones.
They need to feel the ugliness of their behavior — for their own sake, for their kids’, in justice to those they wronged, and for the sake of community morals and national health. One hopes some of them go to court on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor; there may well be other charges to file and Via Meadia wouldn’t cry if that happened. Large fines, enormous legal bills, harrowing anxiety, public humiliation, perhaps some jail time: a suitable lesson both for parents and offspring that cheating is wrong. Prosecutors who follow up on this will be doing public service; if outbreaks of mass fraud like this aren’t stepped on, hard, others will yield to temptation.
These parents should be sweating bullets. If any of them are involved in custody battles with exes, they should be ready to help their kids pack. No court in America would ignore this kind of behavior in making custody decisions; parents who do this are completely unfit. An ex unhappy with current custody arrangmenents now has the perfect opportunity to seek redress; children need to be removed from homes where lying and fraud are OK.
They should worry about their jobs (as should the teachers and officials who turned blind eyes to this mess). People who behave in this way are not fit to exercise public or private jobs involving character or trust. If parents teach their own children to bribe, to lie and to cheat, what else do they think is OK?
I would advise any plaintiff’s lawyer in the region to follow this story closely; if an employer has employees who do this kind of thing and that employer keeps them on staff after this, the employer is arguably showing negligence that could result in extremely large legal judgments down the road. To fire these people also sends a strong message to your other employees that dishonesty cannot be countenanced.
Certainly no financial firm can keep somebody like this on staff; disbarment would be an appropriate penalty for lawyers who push their kids down this road. It is also unclear that a person who behaves in this way should be allowed to practice medicine. There is a lot of Medicare and Medicaid fraud in this country; we’ve just uncovered some suspects.
For the rest of us, this should be a reminder of the importance that faith in God is the best foundation for a happy and peaceful life. Faith in God is not just about keeping people honest when no one is looking. It is also about the belief that God has a plan for your life and that if you do your honest best, whatever comes is where you were meant to be. Going to Podunk in accordance with God’s plan will have a better outcome than cheating your way into Harvard. Material success is a good thing but not the only thing, and a life built on fraud won’t be happy.
All this said, it is still true that the scandal points to the absurd overvaluation that America gives the imprimatur from blue chip schools. Via Meadia wants national exams that would allow students from less famous or non-traditional schools to demonstrate that a hardworking kid at Wayne State can come out of college better educated than a lazy wastrel from the Ivy League. The absence of such recognized credentials is what gives prestigious degrees excessive weight in the job market, and this system is not only dysfunctional but morally wrong. (Of course those exams would have to have procedures in place to discourage and punish cheats.)
America’s greatest treasure is the integrity of our people; without that both our liberty and our prosperity will not last. That integrity must be vindicated and defended in every generation; if it isn’t, the whole country will go down the tubes.