Saturday, March 23, 2019

Parenting and Privilege in College Admissions

At the Los Angeles Times, "A wiretap brings privilege and helicopter parenting to the fore in the college admissions scandal":

Gordon Caplan had a problem. Last year his teenage daughter was slogging her way through a series of practice ACTs. But her scores were unlikely to get her to where he believed she should be: a high school senior with a clutch of acceptance letters.

She needed a higher score.

Caplan, a high-powered lawyer from Greenwich, Conn., and his wife began talking with William “Rick” Singer, the admitted mastermind of the college admissions scandal that continues to dominate a national conversation about privilege and parenting.

According to transcripts of wiretapped conversations that were released by federal prosecutors when charges against 50 people — including Singer and Caplan — were announced, Caplan was concerned that his daughter might find out about the ruse.

“To be honest, I’m not worried about the moral issue here,” Caplan said. He was worried about discovery.

“If she’s caught doing that, you know, she’s finished.”

The Newport Beach admissions consultant told his client that their silence was key to achieving the desired outcome. Authorities say that Caplan, who declined to comment through his attorneys, then signed off on a $75,000 payment, which was masked as a donation to Singer’s foundation.

Wealthy parents have been going to great lengths to help their kids get into elite universities for years. But this well-documented — and viral — moment in the helicopter-parenting era indicates a willingness to go to greater extremes.

In an era of badly behaving bankers, entertainment and sports figures, and government officials who tweet first and think later, the cheating may seem like perversely logical behavior.

But experts in parenting say the win-at-all-costs attitude can have a pernicious effect on a child. When they try to clear the way for their children’s success, parents are essentially saying to their kids that they can’t do it on their own, a stance that may block the path to successful adulthood.

In an effort to ensure that his son was admitted to the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy at USC, Bill McGlashan allegedly paid Singer $250,000 to, among other things, fabricate a football career. Although McGlashan’s son’s high school didn’t have a football team, his son was suddenly a kicker. Authorities say the new addition to his list of achievements partially came thanks to Photoshop.

McGlashan, who founded and was fired last week from the private equity investment firm TPG Growth, had been called “one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent voices for ethical investing.”

According to the transcripts, McGlashan asked Singer, “Is there a way to do it in a way that he doesn’t know that happened?”

Singer told him that his son would know only that Singer was “going to get him some help.”

“That [networking] he would have no issue with,” McGlashan is quoted saying to Singer. “You lobbying for him.”

“No issue.”

But a slew of people who regularly interact with and study the behavior of frantic parents overwhelmingly disagree.

This kind of behavior can breed a helplessness in children who never face adversity or failure. That, in turn, can lead to increased anxiety and depression, said author and teacher Jessica Lahey, who regularly writes about parenting and is the author of a book titled “The Gift of Failure.”

Lahey recounted a recent visit to a college where she met the mother of a 20-year-old with diabetes. The mom still tracks her daughter’s blood sugar via a computer app and says she has no plans to stop. That’s an indication, Lahey said, the mother doesn’t think her daughter is capable of doing this seemingly basic task on her own...
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