The United States prides itself on having a meritocracy and at some level it does. But this collegiate application scandal is a reminder that the meritocracy goes only so far. Many of the wealthy families in this country want their children to get a college degree, not for the education, but for the pretended ranking in the meritocracy.
There is a level of irony that the supposedly egalitarian schools of privilege with Ivy League values and student champions of socialism are really some of the most pampered and spoiled scions of luxury in the world. They can champion an economy that makes it impossible for the poor to become rich while knowing they can buy their way out of the problems. Socialism never provides equality. It bakes in class and provides illusions of equality that those with means can bypass. Those with the means never actually have to notice it.
There is something more as well.
The parents playing this game are playing at prestige parenting. They want their child to be known for having gone to particular institutions that are, to them, prestigious. They may say their child “went to USC” as opposed to “has a degree from” and who would be the wiser? This is an extension of the parents’ vanity at the expense of the children. The parents who never actually raised honest, responsible children are unafraid to be dishonest and irresponsible in securing their child’s card into the pretended meritocracy so the parents themselves have bragging rights.
Some of the kids are victims too. Some of them had no idea their parents were pulling the strings for them and now they will live with that shame all so their parents could have bragging rights. Others undoubtedly collaborated with their parents.
I expect that in some cases the parents also feel guilty. They neglected their children who now shill on Instagram as “influencers” and they know the kids are waiting to waste the parents’ fortune. They need to do something so how about a college degree to give the kid something with which to trade on after mom and dad pass through the wood chipper of life?
This is a particular curse of the monied. Generationally, family wealth tends to corrupt and make subsequent generations lazy and capricious. The families have to keep up appearances. They tend to become convinced of their moral superiority and decide they deserve better — the very opposite of Christian humility.
The families that get around this tend to not live in luxury even though they have the means and they tend to instill strong work ethics in their children. Many of them have deep ties to faith as well.
Not most of these people though. They have lived in the lap of luxury and spoiled the children, who by virtue of the Lucky Sperm Club, became entitled to rigging the system for themselves. They feel — not think, but feel at an emotional level — that they have earned it and even now undoubtedly think they can buy their way out of their problems.
All these parents should do jail time.