Meritocracy is a Myth

Courtesy: The Washington Post

If the latest reporting is correct, the main protagonist in the college admissions scandal in the U.S. is likely to spend a long time in prison – 65 years to be precise.

Many parents (all of them have one characteristic in common – they are rich) who have admitted to the wrongdoing may also have to do prison time.

Let me give you a little background – federal investigators were looking at a securities fraud when they stumbled upon the biggest scandal to hit college admissions in the U.S.

Every parent wishes the best for their children – forget merit, aptitude, attitude, and all the rest of it. No one can find fault with the wish.

Wait. You are not just any parent – you are a celebrity parent – rich, ambitious, powerful, and with the right connections. You are willing to bend and even break the rules if necessary, to achieve your ends.

Scenario 1: A rich parent wants a daughter or son to get into a good college. It could be a good state college.

The problem: The student has a less-than-stellar academic record, a poor SAT / ACT score, and no athletic or sporting abilities to speak about.

What does the parent do?

Enter the mastermind.

For a fee, which will go to a non-profit organization (there are 1.5 million non-profits in the U.S.) and thus the “donor” (the parent) gets tax breaks too (whoever said that the law is fair must be from another planet), the mastermind will get the student a test score of your choice.

The mastermind only requires the student to write the test at specified test centers. Unknown to the student, and known only to the parents, a proctor corrects all the wrong answers and ensures a near-perfect score.

The fee (or donation to a non-profit): $50,000. The proctor gets paid too.

You haven’t heard it all yet.

Scenario 2: Like Scenario 1 except that the parent has an even higher ambition – to get the daughter or son into an Ivy League University.

Again, enter the mastermind.

The mastermind, with cooperation from college administrators and those who matter, will get your child in through a sports spot – your child may not know anything about the sport. The mastermind arranges everything – from recorded recommendations by well-known coaches to morphed photographs showing the child at play to “trophies” won – the list is sickening.

The fee (or donation to the same non-profit): $250,000 – $500,000. Remember, you can get a tax break since you are giving to a non-profit whose avowed mission is to help under-served children.

The general rule in cases of this kind is that the first person to be caught is usually at the bottom of the pyramid. Investigators must painstakingly work upwards to get at the kingpin.

In this case, however, the exact reverse has happened. The mastermind confessed and the rest was easy. Investigators wire-tapped conversations between the mastermind and parents. The mastermind gently reminds the parents of the deal and the donation. He brings up an IRS audit and gets an affirmation from the parents that they have donated to a non-profit, and that they got tax breaks. One celebrity after another – actors, singers, CEOs, professionals – falls, very much like dominos.

Think about the thousands of middle-class parents who will do everything legitimate to get their child into a good college. To place this in perspective, a student wanting to get into a good college based on, say, rowing ability, must practice almost twenty hours a week for three or four years to have any chance at all. Yet, there are no guarantees for such a student. Similarly, the student may have a perfect GPA throughout and a perfect test score. That is no guarantee either (as I have written in an earlier post).

Thus, you have a system that is heavily stacked against the honest, hard-working student (and parents) in favor of the rich and powerful.

I mentioned that the U.S. has 1.5 million non-profits. The IRS, according to one of its former officers, has 220 officers to audit 1.5 million non-profits. Please try to calculate the odds of being caught for a wrongdoing.

And you still think that the much sought after dream can turn into reality?

Courtesy: The Inquirer

Meritocracy has always been and will always remain a myth.

Wish to know more? Listen to the Podcast “Gangster Capitalism.”

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