Cheating and Coaching, Part 2

So, this is long brain dump. Start at Part 1.

Where was I? Oh yeah, talking about parents and the college process. See the road to college starts long before junior of high school. Kids are groomed at very early age to get into an elite colleges. They are groomed from the first moment that parents buy a home in our town.

The only reason that they move to this town is for the high school, which boasts a private school type education at a public school expense. The trick is just to have enough money to buy a home in this town. And as soon as the kids graduate, sometimes the week after graduation, they put their homes on the market and move elsewhere.

Then there are a million decisions about nursery schools, sports and extracurriculars, ADHD medicines, tutors, summer camps, enrichment activities, and so on. All that is going towards building the type of kid that will someday go to an elite college.

College is the finish line for parenting. I admit that I thought that way, too, at least for Jonah. We never thought Ian was going to go to college, but he’s doing so well in school that we are suddenly having to consider college for him, too. Maybe a specialized college. But that’s another story.

Now, are these parents crazy? Are they evil? Are they rule breakers?

No. Their actions are completely rational. The employment options for people who attend college are limited, and getting worse over time. We’ve all read the headlines that robots are going to replace jobs soon and looked at downward economic graphs.

And they live in this fishbowl with everybody else hiring tutors and coaches. To not participate in these activities, takes enormous courage and faith in the child.

We didn’t do coach Jonah or review his papers or help him study for his history exams, in part because of lack of funds and principle, but also because he wouldn’t let us.

He had a term paper for his AP History class that was the same topic as Steve’s PhD dissertation. I begged him to let Steve at least review major concepts of the paper with him, but he refused. I like to think that he spurned our help over the years because he’s a great kid, but it’s more likely because he was scarred deeply over the years by all the talk from others about his parents with the PhDs.

But other kids aren’t damaged like my son and happily accepted help from their parents. They are biggest victim in this crazy culture. They have been taught that they must sit passively back and let adults do the work for them. They have learned helplessness. Even though parents tell them all day every day that they are perfect human beings, they discover that their parents really think they are stupid. The tutors at the door on Saturday mornings signal that their parents’ lack of confidence in them.

Think about how hard those parents in the scandal worked to hide their cheating schemes from their kids. The kids want to get to college on their own steam. Or not. One of the kids said on her YouTube channel (eyeroll) that she didn’t even want to go to college, but her folks insisted on it.

But it screws up a kid’s mind to tell them that they’re smart and then signal in a hundred different ways, that they really aren’t smart.

And it leads to stress. Oh, the whispered stories that I hear about high school girls who cut themselves and the mental breakdowns at college. Shame on all of us for doing this to young people.

More soon…

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16 thoughts on “Cheating and Coaching, Part 2

  1. ” private school type education at a public school expense. The trick is just to have enough money to buy a home in this town. And as soon as the kids graduate, sometimes the week after graduation, they put their homes on the market and move elsewhere.”
    So, Number One Son: one of his jobs the summer after high school was to help the family of two of his friends move from their expensive apartment in the Washington-Lee High School district and to a substantially nicer and cheaper place in the Wakefield High School District, because they no longer needed to be in the Washington-Lee District. Laura, you got that right!

  2. This happens all over the world. Anywhere there is a perceived difference in quality of state-provided education and there is a residential qualification.
    Here in Auckland NZ, the ‘best’ boy’s high-school is Auckland Grammar (a bit of a quibble about ‘best’ – it depends on what you’re measuring), but in public perception it’s on top. The difference in house price inside and outside the ‘Grammar zone’ is around $500K (i.e. house one street outside the Grammar zone is $1.5 million, same size house 1 street inside the zone is $2 million – real estate agents actively promote the property as Grammar zone as the number 1 feature). People are absolutely willing to pay a premium for their children. The school has to hire private detectives to make sure that the people who claim to be living in the ‘zone’ are actually resident there.
    And the schools just outside the zone are certainly not ‘bad’ schools – maybe top 80% rather than ‘the best’. Of course, though, they don’t have the prestige, or the social connections (for kids and parents) of Grammar.
    Interestingly private schooling isn’t big here in NZ (we have some, but it’s very much a minority), the emphasis is on the ‘good’ public schools. And the big ‘winners’ in the reputation/education stakes have become the Catholic integrated schools (i.e. publicly-funded schools with a ‘special character’ (teach religion class, have discipline (not caning kids, but social/behavioral expectations), and can kick out badly behaved kids) Parents could care less about the first one, but love the last 2 – having seen what happens in state schools which find it virtually impossible to expel even kids who are violent in class. They’ve become the de-facto private school on a public budget – without the residential zone (and inflated property price) qualification.

  3. Personally, I think the last ten years or so are completely inexplicable without recognizing that a substantial portion of well-off white people have gone off their nut with status anxiety. The only way to deal with it is sarcasm and avoidant behavior.

    1. Hmh, interesting take. I guess that’s the “peering into the distance they can see an end to their privilege” argument I saw in the Wa Post, talking about Tucker Carlson, I think.

      I’m less inclined to see that view, since my personal group of white people are the sort who are doing everything they can to make sure their kids stay in their track, but simultaneously trying to throw ropes to others. The problem for them is not they’ve gone crazy with fear but that they don’t see the simultaneous participation in the system that oppresses and keeps others down:

      Giridharadas quoting, he says, Tolstoy: “I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible … except by getting off his back.” —Leo Tolstoy”

      1. bj said,

        “Giridharadas quoting, he says, Tolstoy: “I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all means possible … except by getting off his back.” —Leo Tolstoy”

        Tolstoy was:

        a) a really terrible husband

        b) had a lot to feel bad about, given his compulsive wenching with lower class women (including his serfs) as a young man and that (around the same age) he managed to lose multiple (!) villages and their serf inhabitants via compulsive gambling.

        Tolstoy had every reason to feel bad.

  4. This seems to fit in this section. Axios interviewed a parent who used the college-advising services of The Key, but did not fall for “the side door” option, although he claims Singer offered it: https://www.axios.com/rick-singer-college-bribery-witness-account-1bc4d0b4-7cb5-4d8c-84ac-92fe2d8854d9.html

    “We keep having different communications going on, and at some point he brings up the USC thing again and maybe another school too. He uses the word ‘side-door.’ Something like, ‘Your kid can’t really get in here, but I’ve got a way to get him in the side-door.’

    If your kid’s college admissions expert says, “he can’t really get in here,” you’d believe him, right? So I’m wondering how Singer chose the “side door” families. Ability to pay? Desperation?

    Although given how many USC coaches were compromised, I wonder if anyone in the university administration had an idea what was going on? As I understand it (could be wrong), in-state students apply to the whole UC system, and the tuition they pay is capped. Wealthy locals who feel grateful (and can be blackmailed) would be likely to support university programs generously.

    1. Cranberry said:

      “Although given how many USC coaches were compromised, I wonder if anyone in the university administration had an idea what was going on? As I understand it (could be wrong), in-state students apply to the whole UC system, and the tuition they pay is capped. Wealthy locals who feel grateful (and can be blackmailed) would be likely to support university programs generously.”

      University of Southern California is private. It’s not a UC.

      The estimated total cost of attending USC is now almost $75k a year.

      http://financialaid.usc.edu/undergraduates/prospective/how-much-wil-my-education-cost.html

      1. Thanks for that correction. I’m obviously an East Coast person.

        According to College Navigator, the Average Net Price by income is less than $75K a year, once all grant or scholarship aid is taken into consideration.

        https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=university+of+southern+california&s=all&id=123961#netprc

        $49,423 for families with incomes of $110K or more, $22,445 for families with incomes between $48,001 and $75,000, etc.

        However, most of those scholarship funds are not available for international students.

    1. I saw an old college friend at a bar mitzvah last year. He admitted that his daughter is going to Penn. I asked him how he could allow that happen. Everyone at Cornell knows that Penn sucks.

      1. Penn is where parents send their kids so they can say they didn’t go to Penn State. Just because you play in the same sports league as Princeton doesn’t make you comparable to Princeton.

        McMegan went to Penn. That says it all about Penn’s intellectual heft.

      2. When I was in the nutrition department at Berkeley we all felt vaguely shamed that our department had graduated Adelle Davis… Myself, I am very fond of McMegan and think she is smart and insightful. Also, as a Berkeley High School grad I am pleased about Caitlin Flanagan. To each his own, I guess.

      3. Myself, I am very fond of McMegan and think she is smart and insightful.

        Yes, well, that says as much about you as it does about her.

        Myself, I find her to be a perfect example of the kind of person in our society who, with the right background and connections, can only fail up, no matter how badly they perform. If she had had to adhere to the same level of accountability in her chosen profession as I do in mine she would have been done a long time ago.

        In a way, she is an example of this whole college scandal in a slightly different sphere. Rules that apply to some of us and others that apply to the favored others.

    2. Well, Jay, I appreciate your views, which are certainly strongly held, and I will give them the attention they so richly deserve.

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