Lessons for Everyone from the College Bribery Scandal

Though shocked at the news and personalities (I had always liked Aunt Becky and Mayor Abigail Stanton–I guess no more lectures on integrity to Henry Gowen or the new saloon owner– “around Hope Valley our word is our bond”), most of us watch this scandal unfolding and unfolding and unfolding and think, “Well, this does not pertain to me. I’d never do something like this.” and we might ask ourselves, “What were they thinking? What drove them to such lengths to even fake sports resumes. etc?”

What did drive them to such lengths? One of the big things that struck me is that the parents were not content to provide their children with the best opportunities for success. They took responsibility for the future success of these children. They had to make sure that their kids would get a degree from the one of the best schools in the nation. These parents took responsibility for the outcomes over and above opportunities.
All of us want our children to succeed in life.
But maybe failure is better than easy success. Or success on a grade or paper, but a false success, one that a child had not earned. Haven’t most of us learned that we learn more from our failures than our successes?
The parents in this scandal could not let this happen. They could not turn to their children at the start of high school and beyond and say, “I love you, honey, but it is now all up to you. You will have to stand on your own two feet. You will need to either sink or swim based on your hard work. I can’t care for your success more than you do.
That last statement is key — a parent cannot care more for the child’s success than that child does. I stayed up late with both my girls when they had very difficult assignments and projects. I read draft after draft, proofreading and pointing out things that they needed to fix. (Much to their dismay.)
I would support them when they were working diligently. But we were both going to bed when one or the other tried to hand something off to me without sharing the labor. When they went to bed, I went to bed; whether the project was done and ready for the morning or not. The consequences of procrastination were hard teachers, but effective ones.
But these parents felt duty bound to shield their children from their consequences. They would force the doors of opportunity open for their kids, even when the children openly mocked these opportunities on their YouTube channels.
In 2 Corinthians 13, God warns the believers to “examine yourselves.” This is good advice when scandals break out. Instead of looking down on those mired in the mess, look in a mirror. Fellow Veritas family, let’s examine ourselves. Are we taking responsibility for our children’s projects and papers at times? Are our students turning in their work, or their parents’ work? It’s a difficult area to navigate.
At times our children need our help to learn the standard that is expected for a journal entry, a short answer to a quiz question, and even a composition project. But once you have shown them what the ideal would be, do you then let them do their best to hit that goal? It will take them numerous attempts to reach the mark that they are expected to hit. But this is a valuable lesson by itself — practice makes perfect.
The grades are not what’s important — the learning is. When I as a parent step in and perfect the work of my child, I am actually cheating him or her. I cheat on three fronts: 1) My child learns to take credit for work that he/she did not do, 2) My child misses out on the lessons to be learned from the homework, and 3) My child is learning subconsciously that Mom or Dad does not think I can do it, so he/she will rescue me from my own incompetence.
This is the saddest thing about this college bribery scandal. The very children that they were trying to help, the parents have crippled: All future successes will be suspect. The children never learned the value of hard work. These young adults feel that life should give them everything, entitlement to the nth degree. They will be booted out of their colleges and left with what? A resume of shame and deficiency.
Life’s hard. We work with the sweat of our brow and reap thorns and thistles. This is part of living in a fallen world. I may have eternal life from trusting in Christ’s death, but I am not in heaven yet. And neither are my children. And hardship produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character provides hope. (Romans 5:3-5) These children of the super-rich have been stripped of all of this. Let us keep pursuing the upward call in Christ Jesus so that our children will gain what these young adults have lost.
Your fellow servant-warrior, Christopher
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