Writer’s Block: Stop Making Excuses for Our Kids

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By Corinne Wnek

I couldn’t help but gasp when I saw the news clip this week about the arrest of a college student who charged twenty-five hundred dollars to at least six high school students in exchange for taking the SAT for them. Supposedly, this guy was a real pro at test taking. This must be true because he was attending Emory University, one of the most selective colleges in the country.

Now several things popped into my head as I watched this story unfold on TV. First, how do high school kids get their hands on this kind of cold, hard cash? A ginormous paper route? Mowing lawns? Even in very affluent areas, such as the one I work in, I can’t imagine a parent who would turn over that amount of money to their child without asking, “What’s it for”? Wouldn’t there be something they would expect to see for a couple of thousand dollars? How about a receipt?

What about the enormous risk these six students from a well to do community were willing to take? There had to be a lot of thought put into their decision because we are talking about trying to outsmart THE COLLEGE BOARD. And wouldn’t you think that someone as bright as this little entrepreneur would just know that it’s a crime, as in jail time, to impersonate someone? Sorry, call me greedy but twenty-five hundred dollars is just not enough money to make prison worth it for me.

But the one thing about this whole situation that was especially disturbing to me as a high school counselor, and as a parent, was the answer a woman gave when asked by a reporter for her thoughts on how such a thing could happen at this top rated high school. The woman responded that, although she didn’t condone what was done, it happened because kids are under so much pressure today to do well in order to get into the top colleges. In other words, we all have to understand how hard it is for bright, rich kids. I’m gagging even now.

Just who is pressuring these kids? What messages do parents themselves send to their kids that might make their child feel that if they don’t get into a prestige school they have somehow failed to measure up? What kind of conversations are parents having with their children about personal values and the real meaning of success?

And do they know that many people who went to some pretty ordinary colleges actually move on to become CEO’s, doctors, teachers and engineers and community leaders? Do they know that many students who start out in community colleges go on to complete their education at some very respectable and selective schools?

I can still feel my head pounding because this is the message that high school counselors and teachers try to deliver day in and day out to their students. In the end, it’s all about the work ethic one has that will determine where one ends up no matter what college name appears on the diploma. Sure, some big time organizations love to recruit students from the elite colleges. But they also love to recruit the top ten per cent of the class from these schools. Sadly, most of us are not elite.

My RSVP to the inevitable pity party some people will hold for these cheating students? Sorry. I gotta wash my hair.

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