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Column

Bribes-for-admission scandal a head-scratcher

Scott Reeder
Scott Reeder

SPRINGFIELD — When I read that some rich parents were indicted last week for allegedly paying bribes to get their kids into some hoity-toity schools, I couldn’t help but just scratch my head.

It would appear these parents weren’t seeking educations for their children, but status for themselves.

Pursuing an education is fulfilling. But seeking a higher social status is just plain boring.

You know the types of folks I’m talking about.

They have to be chosen by the “right” sorority or fraternity, later they just have to belong to the “right” country club and then live in the “right” neighborhood and later have their kids admitted to the “right” colleges.

Such behavior is alien to me. I grew up in Galesburg, a blue-collar town. Many of my high school classmates sought to work in factories, farm or just be good parents. No degrees were required.

Kids who went on to a university were about as common in some neighborhoods as a purebred dog.

If you told someone you would attend someplace like Wellesley, Vassar or Grinnell, you’d inevitably be asked, “Now, are those four-year schools?”

Those youngsters who went off to college were special — often the first in their family.

The idea of going to the “right” college was alien. Just going to college made you extraordinary.

A number of years ago, Rock Island attorney Thomas Kilbride was running for the Illinois Supreme Court against a politician with a Harvard law degree.

I asked Kilbride if he was intimidated, and his response has stuck with me: “I’ve never had someone come to my office with a legal problem and ask where I went to law school.”

The voters apparently agreed. Justice Kilbride has served a distinguished 18 years on the Illinois Supreme Court.

About a decade ago, the University of Illinois was enmeshed in a scandal in which it was admitting less qualified students with political connections.

Illinois politics being what it is, no one should have been surprised.

After all, children of alumni and donors, as well as athletes, have long been given advantages in the admissions process at elite universities across the country. We shouldn’t be surprised that less qualified but politically connected students got a break, too.

Now we are learning that the wealthy parents are bribing their kids’ way into elitist universities.

Those who participate in a system that gives a leg up to the children of the privileged but fails to give a hand up to those who have overcome obstacles deserve the antipathy of those passed over.

Note to readers: Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist and a freelance reporter. His email address is ScottReeder1965@gmail.com.

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