During a time when national scandals have become commonplace, the way we react to them is often intriguing, entertaining, and predictable. The recent college admissions disgrace where very wealthy parents expended, in many cases, ridiculous sums of money to ensure their children would be admitted into prestigious universities certainly qualifies on all levels.
When news like this breaks, one can be certain that the public’s reaction will be one of shock, outrage, and anger. In fact, if you watch any of the morning network news shows, the word “outrage” is used almost daily to describe the public’s reaction to one slight or another. Given the sheer volume of human misbehavior running rampant in today’s world, how anyone can be shocked by this latest misdeed is shocking in itself.
The second predictable event that follows any wrongdoing is that our country’s leaders will spring into action by creating new laws and federal investigations meant to protect us from ourselves. True to form, U.S. House members Mark Green and Vincente Gonzales proposed a “College Affordability Bill,” which is designed to “make college accessible to more Americans.” I’m not sure how this solves the problem of a bunch of rich, entitled people trying to scam the system, but, oh well.
Frankly, any bill that has the terms “college” and “affordability” in its title can’t be all bad, but that’s not the point here. The point is, the political reaction to every bad event is to create laws that will eliminate future bad events. But, they never do. One would hope that there would be at least one person in the halls of Congress who would recognize that you cannot legislate morals, ethics, and values. But, alas, there apparently is not, because they keep trying.
Besides, since all the perpetrators of this scam are now embroiled in the judicial system and being publicly scorned, there are already laws on the books that label behaviors such as bribery, cheating, and money laundering as crimes. Do we really need more?
The final piece of this predictable puzzle was the announcement that the U.S. Department of Education, under the direction of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is conducting an investigation into the eight universities embroiled in the scandal to determine if the institutions in question “violated any the laws or rules governing the federal student financial aid programs or any other applicable laws.”
I can save them some time. Yes, they have, and so have all the other universities that were fortunate enough not be be caught in this particular dragnet. Speaking as someone whose former job was to follow an insane number of ridiculous state and federal laws governing education, it is not humanly possible to know them all, much less follow them. So, some transgressions will no doubt be uncovered, but that doesn’t mean they were committed with malice.
As is also customary, the feds have placed an absurd timeline of 30 days on the poor schmucks who have now been charged with gathering mountains of information to submit to Ms. DeVos and her behavior police buddies, which they will then use to indict the schools over some real or perceived wrongdoing. Sadly, you can be sure that the people breaking their necks to gather this information had not one thing to do with this scandal. They are merely pawns in the political charade.
Additionally, it was priceless to hear Ms. DeVos describe the people involved in this controversy as “disgraceful,” (which they are). But, for her to issue such a pronouncement is staggering in its hypocrisy, since she has made millions of dollars off the backs of poor and disadvantaged children through her involvement in the corrupt charter school industry. She has no right to judge the character of anyone.
Then again, how many times in the last few months have we watched public hearings where people like DeVos, aka, our Congressional “leaders” sit in judgment of others while exhibiting reprehensible behaviors themselves, all in the name of “transparency” and “accountability?”
It is disgusting.
The admission practices of universities are certainly not above reproach, but one needs to point fingers at no one other than the small number of parents, coaches, and other officials who committed these crimes. They decided it was acceptable to break all the rules of common decency, not to mention federal laws, to give their precious little cherubs a leg up on other more deserving young people. THEY, and no one else, are to blame for this scandal, and we certainly don’t need a federal investigation to tell us that.
While millions of us who have sent our children off to college haven’t had the wherewithal to drop six figures of cash in someone’s lap to ensure our kids’ acceptance into our favorite university, every one of us had the opportunity to look for someone to take a test on their behalf or to cheat the system in some other way. But, we didn’t do it, because we had something known as morals.
So, how about if we drop the political charade and call this what it truly is … a small group of unethical, immoral adults behaving (very) badly…and leave it at that?
Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.