Opinion

Parents in college scandal sought bragging rights

Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman (Photo: AP)
Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman (Photo: AP)

It’s not especially shocking to learn some very rich and famous parents used bribery and cheating to get their mediocre spawn admitted into top-tier universities like Yale and Stanford.

What is surprising is why they’d think it matters. Clearly these pay-to-play parents don’t value education. When you throw hundreds of thousands of dollars at a smart stranger to take the SAT or ACT for your kid while he’s off to Cabo, it’s obvious you don’t think it’s important to actually learn stuff.

So why would they do it? Why would they pay as much as $6.5 million to get their middling kid into an Ivy?

It’s not as if the pampered offspring won’t be given a “job” in whatever field they choose, college or not. So why scheme so hard, spend so much, risk a ruined reputation and, most important, demonstrate to your child that you have zero faith in his or her intellect and ability?

Not much has been said about the students but you can imagine even the most clueless felt at least a pang of insecurity knowing they got into college only by pretending to be a scholarship-worthy athlete in a sport they know nothing about; OR by faking a phenomenal SAT score when they never took the test themselves.

I’m sure there will be lots of spin about how these loving parents decided their kids needed a nudge, a confidence-building “win.” That’s a tough sell, even if they weep and wail on the witness stand about feeling guilty for not being there enough in their childhoods.

Don’t buy it. This isn’t about missing too many science fairs and school plays.

There’s only one true answer: Bragging rights. You think rail-thin Felicity Huffman, eating an imaginary canape at a Hollywood party wanted to say: “Oh, my daughter? Yeah, she’s going to community college, somewhere in the Valley, I think…” No. She and husband, William H. Macy (who, curiously, is not charged with anything making him not just Shameless but potentially Blameless) are what passes for Hollywood royalty these days.

So is actress Lori Loughlin, whose mini-me daughter appeared with her mom on the “Today” show two years ago to talk about her plan to study acting at USC (one of the embroiled schools), and who now finds herself with her own fuller house. While it wasn’t as bad as encouraging her to date “that nice Tucker Carlson,” it’s pretty awful.

It makes me recall my own helicopter mom moment when the Princess was taking the required pre-kindergarten test for public school. I was anxious until a friend emerged from the testing room with her daughter.

“How’d she do?” I asked, trying to sound lighter than I felt.

“She won’t no genius but she done alright,” was the hilariously honest answer.

That little girl is graduating from a well-respected university in a couple of months. So is my little girl. And many of yours. Being rich and famous isn’t inherently bad. But being a crappy parent is positively criminal.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.

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