They have more money than we do. Because of that, they have more power, better connections and they use it all to further enrich themselves and set their children up to reap the same benefits.
If we're honest, I think part of our anger over this latest scandal, is that most of us wish we had the heft to accomplish what the super rich take for granted. Regardless at what level of society we're in, most of us do favors for our friends and family.
We may not have an "in" or a criminally opened side door at Yale, but maybe we' have a friend who's a cop or a nurse. That may mean we get a pass on a speeding ticket we deserve or get a prescription called in when we should really have to make an appointment and be seen by a doctor. Friends and family discount at a department or convenience story? Sent to the head of the line for a movie screening? How about selection for an internship or even a job?
Is it fair that the super wealthy can make a big donation and get their kid into the school of their choice? Nope. It is, however, a more transparent (and legal) bribe than actual (criminal) bribes where people in positions of power take cash under the table to skip the non-deserving ahead.
My first response to seeing that news story was, "Dang. And I was feeling guilty that we hadn't hired an application coach for Alison."
She's in the midst of college application season. Jeff is monitoring closely but she's been responsible to determine the list of schools she'll try for, filling out the applications, writing the essays, interviewing and doing all the stuff that's required to be considered.
She'd initially limited herself to a few colleges, due to the application fees involved. Jeff encouraged her to cast a wider net and let him worry about the money. Is that snowplowing? For families that don't have the money for the fees, I'd say it is. Other examples of stuff we've done:
- We knew a couple alums from some of those prospective schools. Jeff quizzed them on tips and tricks for the required live interviews they have between application and true consideration.
- He and Ali met with them together, so she could get tips firsthand.
- We've taken her on two tours of one of her favored schools.
- We're poised to take her to any others she wants to visit.
Juxtapose Alison's college preparation experience to mine. My parents never discussed college with me or, to my knowledge with any of my six siblings. My brothers were expected to join the family construction business, which they'd learn from our father as he had learned from his. My sisters and I would have been laughed out of the room had we suggested becoming carpenters. Like hunting, that was a boy thing.
I don't recall being encouraged or discouraged into any particular kind of life after high school, save the one you'll read about shortly. My best high school friend, Debbie, and I were planning to attend Purdue. We'd applied and had been accepted and had a whole life planned that would involve leaving our hometown for a life of exploration, writing (me) and photography (her).
I came home one day to learn my father had signed me up to attend Indiana State, and I'd start classes the second semester of my high school senior year. My dad, a talented custom home builder, had a debilitating heart condition that upended his career. Unable to do the physical labor he'd done all his life, he qualified for Social Security Disability. Changes within that program meant that unless I was a college student before I graduated high school, his benefits would be significantly decreased. Someone -- I don't know who -- had clued him in to this completely legal sidestep.
So I went to high school two days a week and three others only in the morning so I could go to ISU in the afternoons. The summer after I graduated high school, I got a job at the Terre Haute Tribune Star reporting the news and I never gave Purdue another thought. I was a news reporter -- my dream job. What else in life could I possibly want? I got that job, by the way, based on a recommendation from a teacher -- not a bribe but certainly a favor.
Jeff and his siblings attended Maine universities and each have advanced degrees. Gary's college career had been sidelined by illness, but he worked full-time at a paper mill and went to college at night. That left Marian to be in charge of three kids, mostly alone. I just did a week alone with Ali and have renewed respect for single parents.
When the Reed kids were in college, they secured summer internships at the paper mill where Gary worked -- not a bribe or improper, but certainly it helped that their dad was by then in a leadership position at the company.
My point, and I think I have one, is that decent human beings do things to help each other and to help their children -- and that's as it should be. Like just about everything in life, there's a spectrum of those who do too little and some who do too much.
I think you learn more, grow more when you have some skin in your own game of Life, but that's probably because I don't know what it would be like to have a super rich and powerful parent to snowplow my path.
I have been bingeing on Schitt's Creek which is a look at what happens when the super rich and powerful Rose family find themselves with nothing. I had to push through the first episodes because they're truly hideous people at first. The "kids" are in their late 20s but are totally reliant on their parents, who seem to think there's nothing wrong with that.
I'm in the 4th season now and think it should be required watching for people who are about to blaze an obstacle-free path for their kids.
Compared to my path from high school to college, one could make the case that Alison is closer to the Roses than to the Reeds. I like to think that I'm less a helicopter or snowplow parent and more a mom who's standing by with the first aid kit just in case she falls. The Captain would tell you that I have occasionally gone overboard in trying to make her happy.
If I had a dollar for every sentence he's begun with, "When I was her age I didn't get to..." I'd be able to bribe Yale, Harvard and any other elite college in the world. (Not that I would, of course...)
Jeff takes the position that because he didn't have this or that opportunity, she doesn't need it either. I take the position that because I didn't have those opportunities, she should. It's been a push-pull that's sometimes been an issue but never a real marital problem. Probably because we've been united in expecting her to do her best academically, to consider college her next step and graduate school after that.
Is that the right path for every kid? Nope. And if a trade or gap year is best for yours, I fully support it. Heck, as long as you're a positive force in the universe and willing to support yourself legally, I say, "You do you."
So I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon to harangue Aunt Becky. If I had access to her helicopter, maybe I'd steer it badly, too.
Now, to lighten the mood, let's all celebrate the squirrel who's been after my neighbor's bird feeder for the past few weeks. When he started, he'd get up the skinny metal pole, reach out a paw toward the feeder and slide right down. He's worked his upper body muscles to the point where he can feed lately, though he does end up on his back on the ground from time-to-time. Ali claims he did a back flip this morning.
Perfect example of what a creature can accomplish even without a helicopter parent. No?