Since so many people have commented on the story that broke yesterday of indictments and arrests of various people in connection with a college admissions bribery case, I may as well get into the act and put in my two cents. I have two points to make.
First, I’ve read the FBI affidavit. It’s remarkably vague on precisely what federal laws have been broken. As far as I can tell the actual violations involved are tax fraud and wire fraud. Practically nothing in the actual material of the case may be against federal law. As usual the real scandal is what’s legal.
Second, the dozens of people involved in this case are probably only the tip of the iceberg. “Legacies”, individuals who are admitted to elite institutions of higher learning on the basis of family connections, and rich kids who are admitted based on Daddy’s contributions have been around for generations. Former Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry was an example of the former; President John F. Kennedy of the latter.
Justice is frequently represented in art as being blind. When who you are matters more than what you have done, there can be no justice and that’s as true in college admissions as in a court of law.
We do not have a meritocracy. We have a plutocracy. As long as “elite” institutions exist, their admissions policies are private, and they are known to admit people for reasons other than merit, any notion of meritocracy will be a lie and it is a lie that injures all of us.
In case you’re curious, when I took the SATs and ACTs the industry of tutors, etc. was in its infancy. I didn’t receive any tutoring. Whatever scores I got, I got on my own. I attended an elite high school but I was admitted purely on the basis of merit and received a full scholarship. Admission to the school was by competitive examination and I learned, after graduating, that I had the highest score on the admissions test in my year. My dad wouldn’t have paid for me to attend a high school on philosophical grounds. I was admitted to an elite college based on scores, grades, and notable extracurricular activites, which I worked for. It was paid for partly based on an academic scholarship and partly because I worked a 40 hour week all the way through college.