After many years working in education institutions, I viewed the stories about the Landry College Preparatory School with a little skepticism. I didn’t jump to the conclusion that anything underhanded was going on, just a feeling that there was more to the story than was being told. As is typical for me, the belief that most people play by the rules was applied too generously.
Now, the finger-pointing has begun. Who is to blame for the predicament in which all the graduates, students, parents and supporters now find themselves? Well, of course the Landrys have to accept some of the blame. The problem has been traced directly to unethical and possibly criminal practices at their school. Just below the surface of those offenses, we need to look at why someone would feel the need to do such things. If you have read any of my ramblings over the past couple years, you know I believe that a college admission has become one of the more bizarre parts of our society. Even though we have colleges that welcome anyone with open arms that can read, write and do basic math computations, there are hundreds of thousands of high school seniors begging, borrowing and stealing to get accepted to a handful of universities that make a living by thumbing their noses at nine out of every ten applicants. Why?
The simple answer is the first lesson I learned about writing computer code, “trash in, trash out”. Our students have been convinced that an elite university is the end all, be all for a life of fortune and fame. Many burn out before graduating high school and have nothing left when the really hard coursework begins. Moms and dads seeking glory through the success of their kids push them far beyond what they were able or willing to do in order to say that my kid goes to (insert the name of a prestigious university). This mass insanity has created billion dollar testing businesses and an atmosphere where anyone claiming to have the magic formula for getting into an elite college will make a lot of money until the collapse of their house of cards.
All it takes is a fair evaluation of the appropriate location, academic offerings, campus atmosphere and affordability to select the right college. Elite colleges are not for everyone. Insert a little “uncommon” sense into the formula and let someone else support the crazy that the college application process has become.