What’s most surprising to me about the College Admissions Scam where fifty affluent and influential people were charged with bribery and fraud to get their unqualified children into top US colleges, is that these people actually thought that a college degree would help their children even more than their evident power and influence.
Reading through the extensive documents, the enormity of the scandal, stretching from SAT test centers to tutors to athletic coaches and beyond – is incredible. It is evidence of what we all knew and what America continually tries to fool us into disbelieving – that life is fucking unfair. In the US especially, expensive, overpriced education perpetuates class and racial divisions and forbids social mobility. Removing education from the prison system has been one of the greatest disasters of the last few years. Every year we are moving towards a more hierarchical and uneven social system which is indicated by the deliberate deprivation of education to the masses.
When education is already only attainable to a certain social class, it barely remains a surprise that within that small percentage of people an even smaller elite are even less willing to focus on merit or privilege, and believe that talent and knowledge, like everything else in their life, can be bought.
This has created an overpriced education system which is as complicit in this scam as the idiotic Hollywood parents trying to pass off their teenage influencers as talented athletes. These schools are, and always have been, desperate to dictate to the rest of us who we should be reading, listening to, following, watching being represented by – in order to justify the ridiculous amounts of money they charge for their degrees. I am, and always will be, a staunch believer in free education but whether free education at university level can ever exist under Capitalism seems a utopic dream. As a graduate of Cambridge University myself – yet another elite educational establishment renowned, alongside Oxford, for producing 41 Prime Ministers to the United Kingdom – I was extremely aware of my status as a “token” state school student amongst the legacies elite, the gentry, the royals, the kids of the rich and famous and those who had donated vast sums of money to colleges and had little plaques all over the place to remind us all. Cambridge, when I attended, was ostensibly “free” to all (a decision reversed in 1997 when tuition fees were reintroduced in the UK) – and yet money, status and social and economic privilege still dictated entry, as it does today. Perhaps America is simply more honest about it than the Brits.
This all goes to say that none of us were surprised by the College Admissions Scandal. The most surprising thing about it has been that anyone – particularly the news – actually gave a flying fuck about barely legal practices in admissions that have been going on for generations in different guises, albeit in rather more subtle guises than that uncovered by Operation Varsity Blues. Universities worldwide – and particularly elite universities which pride themselves on heritage, history, academic achievement and impossible admissions numbers – are broken, bribable and inherently flawed. We saw this with the Harvard Bias suit, the college prep suit and now this – backed up by the overwhelmingly idiotic, seemingly unironic Instagram boast by Dr Dre about his daughter’s entry into USC “all on her own” (barring his $70m donation in 2013).
The truth is the news is not all over this scandal because it cares about education, or it cares about its inaccessibility, nor even that it thinks this is an important piece of news. The news is all over this scandal because just as we adore placing celebrities on pedestals, there is nothing we enjoy more than tearing those pedestals away and taking pleasure in the humiliation of those who have more than us. Yay capitalism.