Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Let the kids succeed — or fail — on their own
While watching the recent college bribery scandal unfold over the past several weeks, I couldn’t help but think about the sometimes misguided lengths some parents will go to, in the name of helping their child succeed, without consideration of the long-term damage they cause.
I feel so bad for these young adults who have been raised by people lacking a moral compass, and who are likely lacking one of their own.
In case you missed it, the scandal involves about 50 people, including over a dozen wealthy parents, who were caught paying substantial amounts of money to help get their children admitted into prestigious universities — either by having a stand-in take admissions tests or by using athletics to get the students accepted, even if they had never played the sport — via a college prep company that bribed exam proctors, college coaches and school administrators. Because at least a pair of the parents involved happen to be Hollywood celebrities, it has received international attention.
And while this is certainly an outrage, we would be naïve to think it is anything new. There are countless foundations and buildings on campuses across the country bearing the names of generous donors who (one might assume) used that influence to get their own children admitted into academic arenas where they would not have otherwise even been considered.
I have been astonished to hear seemingly intelligent people argue that the scam was a means to tip the scale back in balance due to programs like affirmative action — a policy that was implemented more than half a century ago in part to aid minorities, women, poor and other underserved parts of the population find a place on university campuses — that has resulted in reverse discrimination. What is an affluent family to do?
My heart goes out to the children of these “well intended” parents. What are the lessons they are being taught? Certainly, that money can buy privilege, but on a larger scale, these parents have taught their children that they did not believe they could succeed on their own merit. Or that demanding work is overrated.
At least one student had little interest in attending college, so her mother decided to clear the path not only to get her enrolled in a highly competitive university, but without any effort on the part of the child. Who knows how they would have managed to get the girl through four years of higher learning? I guess when money is not a factor, buying tests and term papers would be a drop in the bucket.
I admit to having overstepped with my own children as they faced challenges while attending school. OK, it was grade school, but I do admit to doing more than my share of wrapping the egg that was dropped from the roof of the elementary school that landed without a crack. My math skills may have made their way into a homework packet or two. I may or may not have made last minute runs to the local craft store, staying up into the wee hours to get the science tri-fold presentation ready for grading. It was all well-meaning and it was all misguided. I was the one who had to learn the lesson.
It took me awhile, but I eventually learned to let my children suffer the consequences of their decisions. So, as they grew older, I did not supply the cliff notes version of the required reading. I did not lean over their shoulder while they did (or didn’t do) the work. I did not write the term paper. I did not do the science project. And sometimes, I had to let them fail.
The ramifications of raising a generation of children who must only show up to be rewarded is beginning to rear its ugly head outside of academia. Ask any employer how difficult it is becoming to find reliable, hardworking, young employees. Oh, I can hear my grandparents as the phrase, “kids these days” rings in my thoughts, but there are precious few who would argue the point.
While my children ran the GPA spectrum from advanced to barely passing, my belief in their abilities was never suspect. They were bright and capable, but also sometimes uninterested and lazy when they were in school. If they went to college, they did so on their own volition. Now, as young adults, they are using what they learned in terms of ethics, drive and desire as they face the challenges life “in the real world” has to offer. Simply put, once they decide they want it, they know how to do the work to get it
Life is a series of joy and sorrow, successes and failures. As the song goes, “sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.” As parents, it is our job to let our children learn the lessons while the price tag is small.
For the students who will be expelled, the lesson is money can buy a lot of things but a free ride is not one of them, and for the student who worked hard and earned the right to fill that vacancy, the lesson is that sometimes good does prevail. Life is certainly not fair but every now and then, the unjust get their due.
Doing the right thing — even when no one is watching — that is called integrity. Those well-meaning entitled parents missed the boat on what their children really needed to learn, and no amount money will buy them that.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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