The breaking news of the college cheating scandal makes me think that I’ve got to sit my two teen kids down and explain to them how sorry I am that my wife and I don’t have the wherewithal to get them into college. Forget about paying for it once they get admitted!
This scandal might seem like something out of a Hollywood movie. After all, two actresses, Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, have been named in the case. The alleged facts, if true, are awful, with rich and sometimes famous parents spending tens of thousands in order to artificially get their children admitted to some of the best colleges in the country.
While there is no doubt that screenwriters are watching this story closely, there have been films over the years that touch on cheating to get into college. One of the most prominent has to be 1983’s “Risky Business.” The Paul Brickman film, starring youngsters Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay, has a disillusioned Chicago teen named Joel (Cruise) left alone while his parents vacation. Needless to say, Joel throws a party.
“Risky Business” contains many notable scenes including Cruise dancing alone in his underwear to Bob Seger’s hit “Old Time Rock and Roll.” And if that image isn’t enough for you to revisit this ‘80s minor classic, there is another sequence, that in light of the current college cheating scandal, takes on fresh significance.
Below is a clip that I excised from a clips compilation by YouTuber Radu Grigoras (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3vwPX-nAcc) in which Joel meets with an Ivy League school representative, played by a very droll Richard Masur. Of course, this interview is anything but typical, because it just happens to takes place while Joel and his partner in crime Lana (De Mornay) are operating a pop-up brothel in Joel’s family suburban home. Needless to say, things work out for Joel.
But the seriousness of the real world events in which parents are alleged to have invented sports achievements and assisted their children in cheating on the SAT cannot be ignored. As a part-time college professor, this story has hit very close to home. My students, at a fine state university, have worked very hard to get into college and even harder to maintain high enough grades to take advantage of state funding opportunities and, of course, to earn a much needed degree. This scandal unfairly damages the value of an honest education. It’s a very sad day.
But the other detail that really riles me is the fact that the parents of these privileged students obviously couldn’t accept that their children would rub elbows with the great unwashed, attending a local community college or what is thought of wrongly as a lesser institution of higher learning. It is a despicable attitude, an odious and callous personality defect. Sure, we all want the best for our offspring, but the best parents allow their children to fail and learn from setbacks. Love is not one’s own petty pride; love is love, regardless.