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Fairness 101: What to learn from the college admissions scandal


Huffman and Loughlin are guilty as charged of chasing prestige. (LISA O'CONR / AFP/Getty Images)

Throw the book at the rich and famous parents who have been charged with faking their kids’ way into elite colleges by paying to rig standardized tests and more. And at the coaches who pocketed bribes to recruit kids they knew could never play a game. And at the guy who got wealthy running the whole fraud.

Then pause from excoriating the wrongdoers to ask what it says about the way these institutions of higher learning enrapture many of us, and shake money out of the pockets of their alumni.

One: Legacy admissions — by which the sons and daughters of graduates get, according to one study, a 45-percentage-point boost in admissions rates compared with equally qualified students who are not, and who knows how much bigger a boost when mom and dad can afford huge donations — privileges the already privileged. It is unjust.

(Meantime, affirmative action as we know it is ripe for a reinvention that focuses far more on class than race.)

Two: Though Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and other schools that parents cheated for their progeny to attend are excellent institutions brimming with great professors, more Americans must understand that there is no magic emanating from their ivory towers. Schools across the country offer an outstanding education and a path to career achievement.

Of course it is natural for families to want what they perceive as the very best. But in too many quarters, the allure of universities thought to sit at the commanding heights is distorted beyond all reason, with the status-laden satisfaction of joining an especially select club fueling a self-perpetuating myth of meritocracy.

Precious few parents cheat their kids’ way in. Too many others live and breathe under a closely related spell. Break it.