Last week, 19-year old Sam Eshagoff was arrested for taking the SAT…six times…for six high school students (also arrested)…charging $1500 to $2500 each. Genius? Well, I hope so since he was taking the SAT for them. You can read the details here: SAT cheating scandal du anne’e. <- Yes, there’s one every year.
It’s a great tale of kids who have been under-achieving but responded to parent pressure, I’m sure, by trying to secure their future with a high test score. They may not get into Yale, but at least they could avoid the local junior college (not that there’s anything wrong with these, economically), which might be a social faux pas in their family circles.
So what’s the big deal?
In sports, there’s a familiar saying that goes, “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” Truer words have not been spoken. *Gasp!* What?! How can you say that, Bill?! Sorry, but you can’t talk me off this one. Everyone cheats. Everyone. And when it’s not out-and-out cheating, it’s pushing the integrity envelope, end-running around the rules, and always with justification.
Exhibit A: Barry Bonds (roids), Lance Armstrong (allegedly, four separate claims), Pete Carroll (plausible deniability), Lane Kiffin (I like to pick on Trojans), every sports agent and every college sports star, Bill Belichik (video-gate), Marion Jones (had to throw a woman in there).
And you know what happened to these cheaters? Nothing. Slaps on the wrist. Except for Marion (before you go into a misogyny rant, all Olympic cheaters receive harsh penalties).
Exhibit B: Countrywide Mortgage, B of A, and other lenders who looked the other way. Every mortgage broker, every ‘stated income’ borrower. Wall Street. Their consequence? A bailout.
Exhibit C: Every politician (yes, lying, concealing, empty promising = cheating). And most don’t even get voted out.
Exhibit D: Commissioners in Little League and AYSO. Yeah, they stack their team and instruct kids to intentionally tank for lower ratings on tryout day.
Exhibit E: You, every time you drive over the speed limit, justify a “business lunch,” or let your tax accountant throw your business write-offs in the “acceptable range” based on their “experience working for the IRS.”
Exhibit F: Every awards show/event, except maybe Kids’ and Peoples’ Choice Awards, where politics determine the winners.
What’s the lesson our kids learn every day in our society? It’s not about integrity and hard work. It’s about results, not getting caught, keeping up with the Joneses by any means. And the justification? Let’s look at the justification for the 6 accused and Sam. Based on the location, I’m betting these kids are all bright and simply underachieved. So, they will likely succeed when it matters, right? I mean, how much of your high school education do you actually use? And we all know that college is a boondoggle save for a few major-related courses and an internship that contribute to your first job. In fact, the real criminals are the colleges and universities who have exploited us with requirements of 120 credits most of which serve students only when watching Jeopardy!. All for the almighty dollar.
And wait, you mean my future promise is based on my ability to perform on math problems that I will never encounter in real life and vocabulary words I will never text, post or tweet (or otherwise use in a business context, unless I’m drafting SAT questions)?
Look, I understand the opposing view. [Read using stodgy voice]: “These tests predict the discipline and aptitude of students to help determine whether or not students can continue to have the same discipline and memory skills necessary to pass 4 years of useless classes.” Great. And then these kids go to their jobs and employ real skills and either survive or get eaten up. My firm once had a Berkeley graduate perform file clerk and gopher tasks. A Berkeley grad! That meant good grades, good high school, and a high SAT. By all means she should have been predicted to do well. She lasted one month (three weeks longer than I wanted). My 12-year old daughter has more common sense and aptitude to perform the office jobs required of this pot head (she was). She didn’t even have book smarts. She just knew how to manipulate and/or use people to get what she wanted.
I see plenty of Orange County parents doing whatever they can to influence the powers that be over our children so they can get an edge. What happened to merit…and letting a kid schmooze on their own? “Problem, son? Let me talk with the teacher or coach to see what I can do.” “You don’t want to wait for X? Let me see if I can tip somebody and get it for you.” And Cliffs Notes are the very epitome of cheating. You don’t read the book when you can use Google, Wikipedia and Cliffs Notes to tell you everything you need to know. We’ve been doing that for decades. Is that cheating? Well it isn’t following the rules.
But we have double-standards here. Some things are acceptable. Others are not. Weren’t these kids just doing what they see and hear on the news, TMZ, ESPN and with their own parents and peers? Don’t those with the money have the ability to bend the rules or outright break them? And isn’t this more of a “white collar crime” thereby justifying a slap on the wrist instead of hard time (Yes, you can completely manipulate the market costing consumers millions and get a fine with little to no jail time for the one scapegoat, but steal from a house and it’s slammer time)?
Yeah, I’d use the “product of my environment” defense if I were Sam and the 6. But it looks like the 6 are already in good shape. Their prospective colleges won’t be notified. These kids just have to retake the SAT. That’s justice for ya.
Now, excuse me while I check my son’s grades and prepare yet another speech to him about assimilating to the institution of education in America so that his grades and test scores can get him into a good school…