The recent news that many wealthy, powerful parents — including celebrities and businessmen — bribed colleges and paid for better test scores to get their children enrolled has held the current news cycle hostage. The scandal reveals a widespread misunderstanding of education’s purpose in our society. Both parents and students need to reevaluate their appreciation for prestigious schools.
According to a U.S. Census Bureau survey from July 2018, more Americans than ever before — more than 90 percent — have completed high school or higher level education. In today’s society, it seems expected that parents will send their children to college, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but education can easily be treated as a mark of social standing, a sign that you have checked off the right boxes to be considered a good citizen.
Hoping to set their students apart from the crowd, parents can feel the need to get their children into a prestigious, “name brand” school like Harvard or Princeton. Education, however, is not just about saying you went to a nationally-respected school. The value of education rests in the love of learning and discovering how to live well. If a student attends a university like Harvard but has little care for the wisdom to be found in the classroom, their education will mean little in the long-run.
Victor Davis Hanson writes in a March 19 article for National Review that the educational institutions accepting the bribes have sacrificed merit and freedom for agendas. This “pay-to-play fraud,” he says, will continue because “schools…have long ignored merit.” As students, none of us are entitled to admission at a particular school, but we can work to merit such a privilege — something the parents and school officials involved in the admissions scandal sadly missed.