Liars and Cheats

 

Operation Varsity Blues has unleashed a veritable orgy of stereotypes. “Entitled white kids” have been trending, along with told-you-so’s about how the system is “rigged.” Several commentators have suggested that this scandal should quiet concerns about affirmative action because the criminality of Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin, and Co. proves that whites are willing to do anything to get ahead. A writer at The Week declared meritocracy a fraud, while the New York Times perceived a “lesson in harsh racial disparities.”

“This scandal exposed the fact that there is a misplaced emphasis on so-called affirmative action inequities, rather than privilege,” one education consultant told the New York Times. The paper quoted a black parent: “You often hear talk about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and that college admission is based on merit. What this story tells me is that the playing field is not level based on race and wealth.”

A Washington Post columnist hit the same theme, asking: “Now that the FBI has shown what stealing a college slot really looks like, can we stop making students of color feel like frauds?” Theresa Vargas, noting that she spoke from personal experience, complained that:

For so long, people of color who have attended elite schools in this country have felt the need to prove that they deserved to be there. They have accepted that no matter their grades or SAT scores, people will look at them as affirmative action recipients and talk about them, sometimes to their faces, as tokens.

. . . all those people who have blamed poor brown and black kids for taking the spots of ‘more deserving’ white kids through affirmative action should have been looking closer at who really didn’t earn their seats.

Whoa. This is stealing a base. The FBI has not shown that every white kid who gets into college has bought and/or lied his or her way in. As for the stigma that attaches to affirmative action, that’s an unfortunate and inevitable by-product of racial preferences. It’s one of the reasons to oppose them. It’s great to be at Stanford, but much less satisfying if you are saddled with the suspicion of being an affirmative action baby.

Many of the lamentations this week about “white privilege” and “poor minorities” have seemed frozen in a time warp. Black and poor are no longer synonymous. As the Institute for Family Studies reports, the share of black men in the upper third of the income tier rose from 13 percent in 1960, to 23 percent in 2016.

A bunch of cheats lied and bribed their way into some top schools. They deserve the scorn and criminal prosecutions they’re facing. But the rush to say “See, this proves the system is rigged for rich, white kids,” is not proved. Yes, wealth confers benefits (even without cheating). And some wealthy people are also black, brown, and other tones. But college admission standards also explicitly “privilege” some minorities at the expense of other minorities and the majority. As the suit by a group of Asian Americans against Harvard has shown, Asian Americans have the lowest admit percentage of any group — along with the strongest credentials. Black students admitted to Harvard over the last 17 years had average SAT scores of 703.7 compared with 766.6 for Asian admittees, and 744.7 among whites. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s not a conspiracy in favor of whites either. If anything, the unfairness to highly qualified Asian students, and not the Operation Varsity Blues, is what casts the meritocracy into doubt.

Isn’t it extraordinary that the students who got into top schools by fraud seemed to have little trouble performing there? This should cause more raised eyebrows than the finger-wagging about privilege. What does this say about grade inflation and academic rigor?

What this scandal and the intense interest it has sparked demonstrate, among other things, is that we’ve come to invest way too much importance in brand names. You’d almost think parents wanted prestige for themselves more than the right fit for their child. The opaque nature of admissions decisions, together with schools’ dishonest claims of “holistic” evaluations of each candidate only invite cynicism. When my brother was a student representative on his college’s admissions committee, he noted that a few applications got a special FI stamp in red. That stood for family influence. The family in one case was named Ferrari.

Perhaps a better system would be to eliminate all preferences — racial, ethnic, geographic, legacy, donor, sports — all of it. Take students of proven ability who want to learn, and provide scholarships based on need. It might just improve everyone’s morale.

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There are 19 comments.

  1. Member

    I’m sure one of the parents, Manuel Henriquez, is even more depressed over his indictment after learning that he is a felonious dispenser of white privilege. Mr. Enriquez, 56, who also lost his white privilege job as CEO of his financial firm, is originally from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, a known bastion of white privilege. He emigrated to Florida at a young age and eventually started his own company after graduating from that center of eastern elitist sensibility, Northeastern University in Boston. He eventually became a multi-millionaire.

    “Veritable orgy of stereotypes” is an apt description for the rush to judgment on this scandal. No, there’s no sympathy for those who used wealth to subvert the admissions system, but also no sympathy for those in the media who want to make a major statement (but of course) out of a scandal that is particular to its participants and says little more about racial or ethnic “privilege.”

    • #1
    • March 14, 2019, at 1:32 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  2. Thatcher

    It makes me wonder how many – if any – of the people charged were rich minorities. Wealthy whites aren’t the only people who use “privilege” to get ahead . . .

    • #2
    • March 14, 2019, at 1:52 PM PDT
    • Like
  3. Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I’m sure one of the parents, Manuel Henriquez, is even more depressed over his indictment after learning that he is a felonious dispenser of white privilege. Mr. Enriquez, 56, who also lost his white privilege job as CEO of his financial firm, is originally from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, a known bastion of white privilege. He emigrated to Florida at a young age and eventually started his own company after graduating from that bastion of eastern elitist sensibility, Northeastern University in Boston. He eventually became a multi-millionaire.

    “Veritable orgy of stereotypes” is an apt description for the rush to judgment on this scandal. No, there’s no sympathy for those who used wealth to subvert the admissions system, but also no sympathy for those in the media want to make a major statement (but of course) out of a scandal that is particular to its participants and says little more about racial or ethnic “privilege.”

    Excellent find @hoyacon. I looked up the list of others indicted. Unfortunately it doesn’t come with pictures, so a dimwit like myself could tell whether or not any were persons of color. But it sure seems as though they were not all “anglo saxon” types. 

    Also the whatabout argument doesn’t work for me. Just because out and out fraud is an unsatisfactory method of college entry, that does not mean that affirmative action necessarily is justifiable.

    • #3
    • March 14, 2019, at 1:53 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Member

    Am I the only one who finds it baffling somebody would pay $500k(okay maybe it was $250k per kid) to get into USC.

    I’m sure USC is a fine institution with reasonably stringent entrance standards, but $500k sounds like Ivy League, Stanford, University of Chicago money to me.

    • #4
    • March 14, 2019, at 2:01 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Member

    EDISONPARKS (View Comment):

    Am I the only one who finds it baffling somebody would pay $500k(okay maybe it was $250k per kid) to get into USC.

    I’m sure USC is a fine institution with reasonably stringent entrance standards, but $500k sounds like Ivy League, Stanford, University of Chicago money to me.

    It’s kind of relative to resources, I’m guessing. If you’re a SoCal celeb and don’t miss the bucks, having the kid near home may be worth it. The film school is also pretty famous, isn’t it?

     

    • #5
    • March 14, 2019, at 2:08 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Thatcher

    Mona Charen: Perhaps a better system would be to eliminate all preferences — racial, ethnic, geographic, legacy, donor, sports — all of it. Take students of proven ability who want to learn, and provide scholarships based on need. It might just improve everyone’s morale.

    Mona,

    I’m not sure you can just do all of that by government fiat without actually nationalizing the University system. However, your comment about morale is very well taken.

    Imagine if you will that you are born at the very peak of the post-WWII baby boom. You grow up in an environment in which US science & technology is leading the world. Kennedy announces the moon shot in 1963 and from then on we are going to out-engineer the Russians. You are in the largest graduating High School class in history with the highest board scores. All before the college curriculum had been watered down and standards lowered. Now you are pushing yourself to find a specialty that you can take with you to graduate school or law school or medical school. The competition has never been more intense and the standards have never been higher. The Lyndon Johnson Great Society has made it a priority to get as many into university and graduate school as possible.

    Suddenly there is a new ruling called quota-based affirmative action. If you are a woman, a black, any minority of any kind, this is good news. Standards won’t just be warped but dropped entirely if necessary. If, however, you are a white male it means that your opportunities have been expropriated by the government. After being pressured by the whole society for the first 20 years of your life that excellence is all that matters, now suddenly there is a special trump card that overrules excellence entirely, only you aren’t going to get one.

    As a final insult, the post WWII full employment economy which you have taken for granted all your life now stalls. The massive wave of graduates is ejected all at once into an economy in a massive recession. The market for people with degrees of any kind is completely flooded. Besides who could go on believing that a degree means anything now that standards can be overruled entirely. Well, the shallow, the banal, the corrupt, or the just plain stupid can go on believing or claiming to believe.

    Yes, you might say that there could be a morale problem. Stupid short sighted feel good massive government programs produce misery for millions permanently damaging lives. The poor of Venezuela loved Chavez at first. Now the truth of what they signed up for is crushing them. Gd help them.

    Just another day in the neighborhood. They lie to everybody. They lie to the fish.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #6
    • March 14, 2019, at 2:13 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  7. Inactive

    EDISONPARKS (View Comment):

    Am I the only one who finds it baffling somebody would pay $500k(okay maybe it was $250k per kid) to get into USC.

    I’m sure USC is a fine institution with reasonably stringent entrance standards, but $500k sounds like Ivy League, Stanford, University of Chicago money to me.

    You know, for the amount of money spent on education in general in this country, and the results I’ve seen so far, I think we should ask for a refund. I live five miles from a new high school (less than 8 years old) that in the last election cycle tried to get passed an additional $500 million dollar expansion bond. This place has just over 1000 students. It already has an Olympic size pool for swimming and diving, 30,000 seat outdoor track and football field, multiple tennis courts, multiple full gyms, specialized STEM/arts and humanities study buildings, with heavy security for the whole campus which covers about 100 acres total (we were invited to the open house and took the tour). However, I as a tax payer, can not use any of these facilities. I can’t even drive into the parking lot. So you would think with all the expense and supposed effort into educating children they would be producing some outstanding students and athletes. You would be wrong. The Texas State Education Board rated the school an accountability rating of “met standard.” 49.9% of students were considered at risk of dropping out of school (Note: 71.5% of the students are white with Hispanics making up 24.1% of the student body. So much for white privilege). But I guess the good news is the school has a 4A-Division 1 football rating and ranked 19th in the state overall, so there’s that. We throw more money at it, we could go all the way to the State championships! 

    • #7
    • March 14, 2019, at 3:57 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  8. Podcaster

    This is but a blip. Imagine the outrage if athletes actually had to pass the SATs.

    • #8
    • March 14, 2019, at 4:58 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Member

    Mona Charen: Isn’t it extraordinary that the students who got into top schools by fraud seemed to have little trouble performing there? This should cause more raised eyebrows than the finger-wagging about privilege. What does this say about grade inflation and academic rigor?

    Lord help me. I agree with Mona.

    • #9
    • March 14, 2019, at 5:10 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. Member

    Those of us who have ushered a few kids through the college admission process already know that unless your kid has a “hook,” or knows someone, they aren’t getting into these elite schools. On paper, four of my kids (one is still in grade school), should have been able to get into the elite institution of their choosing. I’m talking ACT scores between 32-36, SAT scores ranging from 1440-1540 (by the way, they all were “one and done” on standardized testing and took them “cold” with no prep), high school GPAs ranging from 95-99, too many AP test scores of “5” to count and extracurriculars including highly advanced musical preparation, sports, academic clubs, part-time jobs and volunteer time. None of it mattered. The closest we got to admission was being “wait listed” at Cornell and Williams. I’m sure the biggest strike against my kids was their demographic – middle class, white kids, with intact family. Strike. Strike. Strike. This system stinks. The upside is, it looks like another child is headed to Hillsdale (where she has been offered a very generous scholarship) and I couldn’t be more happy for her.

    • #10
    • March 14, 2019, at 6:37 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  11. Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    It makes me wonder how many – if any – of the people charged were rich minorities. Wealthy whites aren’t the only people who use “privilege” to get ahead . . .

    I doubt there any, unless they’re asian, as they get to take advantage of a legal scam called Affirmative Action.

    • #11
    • March 14, 2019, at 6:47 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. Member

    According to the list I read yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard was not involved in any of the 33 cases. I think it is misleading to use Harvard’s veritas shield to illustrate this column.

    • #12
    • March 14, 2019, at 7:25 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  13. Thatcher

    MarciN (View Comment):

    According to the list I read yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard was not involved in any of the 33 cases. I think it is misleading to use Harvard’s veritas shield to illustrate this column.

    Marci,

    No not in this scandal. Harvard has systematically discriminated against Asian students. Asians with the same board scores & grades must score higher than whites and far higher than blacks. Harvard has justified this by patently bigoted statements condemning the personal traits of Asians. The evidence is clear and goes back many years.

    This monstrous hypocrisy is worse than the pay for play scandal in my opinion. For the ivory tower of PC culture to have engaged in anything so evil for so long is an obscenity.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #13
    • March 14, 2019, at 7:52 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  14. Member

    “Whoa. This is stealing a base”.

    I like that. Its like anything outdoors and unpleasant argues for urgent climate change action.

    My take on all this is that prestigious schools are way overvalued.

    As an aside, it is really true that some people of color think all white people are rich.

    • #14
    • March 14, 2019, at 8:03 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. Inactive

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    According to the list I read yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard was not involved in any of the 33 cases. I think it is misleading to use Harvard’s veritas shield to illustrate this column.

    Marci,

    No not in this scandal. Harvard has systematically discriminated against Asian students. Asians with the same board scores & grades must score higher than whites and far higher than blacks. Harvard has justified this by patently bigoted statements condemning the personal traits of Asians. The evidence is clear and goes back many years.

    This monstrous hypocrisy is worse than the pay for play scandal in my opinion. For the ivory tower of PC culture to have engaged in anything so evil for so long is an obscenity.

    Regards,

    Jim

    You sound really upset by these quotas, Jim.

    I’m curious. Yes or no, would it be perfectly fine with you if, for the foreseeable future, the percentage of Asians and Asian Americans in the classes at all of our elite universities — Harvard, Yale, the other Ivies, MIT, Stanford, Cal Tech, Rice, Vanderbilt, all of them — was 40-45% Asian descent? That’s what test scores indicate would happen — and what is currently happening in California.

    That American institutions of higher learning, which are the steppingstones to entrance into our business and technological elite, were training predominantly people of rather recent Chinese extraction — would that concern you in the least as you look to the future and world geopolitical trends? Yes or no.

    When my daughter started her freshman year at an elite Eastern university well-known for STEM two-and-a-half years ago, I went with her for freshman weekend. Fifty percent of her classmates were Chinese or Korean. Nice kids, all of them. We also met many of the other parents. The Asians almost all spoke English as a second language. (The grandparents didn’t say much.)

    Everybody who lives here loves America and wants to be an American, so that’s no problem, right? And it’s not like Asians have a “tendency,” or a cultural habit to be very loyal to their families — well, maybe they do, but not once they come to America.

    Once here, the pull of China and the appeal of being a part of that old civilization’s rise to global glory and perhaps world dominance won’t have any influence at all on these American-educated leaders. Uncle Sam will be able to count on them — right?

    (Just like doing all that Most Favored Nation trade with China for 25 years hasn’t made them a political and economic (military?) rival of the US. It’s actually made China democratic and open, our pals, just like the well-compensated economists said those policies would.)

    It’s wrong to think otherwise. So no more quotas — right? After all, what could possibly go wrong?

    Remember the Nisei!

    • #15
    • March 14, 2019, at 8:53 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Thatcher

    Freesmith (View Comment):

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    According to the list I read yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard was not involved in any of the 33 cases. I think it is misleading to use Harvard’s veritas shield to illustrate this column.

    Marci,

    No not in this scandal. Harvard has systematically discriminated against Asian students. Asians with the same board scores & grades must score higher than whites and far higher than blacks. Harvard has justified this by patently bigoted statements condemning the personal traits of Asians. The evidence is clear and goes back many years.

    This monstrous hypocrisy is worse than the pay for play scandal in my opinion. For the ivory tower of PC culture to have engaged in anything so evil for so long is an obscenity.

    Regards,

    Jim

    You sound really upset by these quotas, Jim.

    I’m curious. Yes or no, would it be perfectly fine with you if, for the foreseeable future, the percentage of Asians and Asian Americans in the classes at all of our elite universities — Harvard, Yale, the other Ivies, MIT, Stanford, Cal Tech, Rice, Vanderbilt, all of them — was 40-45% Asian descent? That’s what test scores indicate would happen — and what is currently happening in California.

    That American institutions of higher learning, which are the steppingstones to entrance into our business and technological elite, were training predominantly people of rather recent Chinese extraction — would that concern you in the least as you look to the future and world geopolitical trends? Yes or no.

    When my daughter started her freshman year at an elite Eastern university well-known for STEM two-and-a-half years ago, I went with her for freshman weekend. Fifty percent of her classmates were Chinese or Korean. Nice kids, all of them. We also met many of the other parents. The Asians almost all spoke English as a second language. (The grandparents didn’t say much.)

    Everybody who lives here loves America and wants to be an American, so that’s no problem, right? And it’s not like Asians have a “tendency,” or a cultural habit to be very loyal to their families — well, maybe they do, but not once they come to America.

    Once here, the pull of China and the appeal of being a part of that old civilization’s rise to global glory and perhaps world dominance won’t have any influence at all on these American-educated leaders. Uncle Sam will be able to count on them — right?

    (Just like doing all that Most Favored Nation trade with China for 25 years hasn’t made them a political and economic (military?) rival of the US. It’s actually made China democratic and open, our pals, just like the well-compensated economists said those policies would.)

    It’s wrong to think otherwise. So no more quotas — right? After all, what could possibly go wrong?

    Remember the Nisei!

    Freesmith,

    Let’s back up. The very nature of quota-based affirmative action rests not on concern for American security but on a Marxist-Leninist critique of Western Civilization. We’re going to magically play gd and right all of past injustices, real or imagined, by destroying the rights of those living now. The problem of the Asians has nothing to do with Chinese Marxism and probably in most cases would involve those who would like nothing more than to put an end to the Marxist regime in China. They would probably be allies in the security concerns of the USA. The Marxist-Leninist woke crowd, no matter what their race, creed, or national origin are the real threats to security and they are the benefactors of this absurd system.

    American universities never admitted solely on the basis of test scores and I don’t expect them to do that now. However, quota-based admissions insists upon ignoring test scores altogether. We have closed our eyes for a very long time to this stupid system and instead of increasing security, we have lost it. Instead of maintaining our edge in educational achievement we have lost it. Sometime we’ve got to face up to this disaster and end this nonsense. Yes, there will be challenges in terms of security. Better to face those challenges as they come than to stick our head in the sand and let our whole system collapse.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #16
    • March 14, 2019, at 9:37 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. Member

    Nerina Bellinger (View Comment):

    Those of us who have ushered a few kids through the college admission process already know that unless your kid has a “hook,” or knows someone, they aren’t getting into these elite schools. On paper, four of my kids (one is still in grade school), should have been able to get into the elite institution of their choosing. I’m talking ACT scores between 32-36, SAT scores ranging from 1440-1540 (by the way, they all were “one and done” on standardized testing and took them “cold” with no prep), high school GPAs ranging from 95-99, too many AP test scores of “5” to count and extracurriculars including highly advanced musical preparation, sports, academic clubs, part-time jobs and volunteer time. None of it mattered. The closest we got to admission was being “wait listed” at Cornell and Williams. I’m sure the biggest strike against my kids was their demographic – middle class, white kids, with intact family. Strike. Strike. Strike. This system stinks. The upside is, it looks like another child is headed to Hillsdale (where she has been offered a very generous scholarship) and I couldn’t be more happy for her.

    Sometimes in life, a knock turns out to be a boost. I think your children may have experienced that by “being forced” to attend Hillsdale.

    • #17
    • March 15, 2019, at 6:30 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Member

    MarciN (View Comment):

    According to the list I read yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard was not involved in any of the 33 cases. I think it is misleading to use Harvard’s veritas shield to illustrate this column.

    Well, I guess there was a Harvard connection after all. The person who took the SATs for the students was a Harvard graduate. 

    • #18
    • March 15, 2019, at 12:32 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. Member

    The interesting thing to me is the fact that the internet has rendered our educational system obsolete, yet due to institutional sclerosis, it keeps on chugging along like a Model T Ford.

    • #19
    • March 17, 2019, at 8:49 AM PDT
    • Like