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Operation Varsity Blues: Three Things I Know for Sure about @OliviaJade

by Carol Barash, PhD, on Mar 14, 2019 10:14:04 AM

I was driving west on I-80, when the first message came through … by the time I could check, my phone was exploding … If you follow college admissions, or the lives of the rich and reckless, even a little, you know that a college admissions advisor in Newport Beach ran an elaborate scam — with the help of many bad actors across psychology, testing, and college sports — to get a few entitled kids into the colleges their parents longed for.

At least one of the kids who benefited from the scam — YouTube star @OliviaJade, daughter of Lori Loughlin — didn’t even want to go to college! She complained about how it would ruin her YouTube career; when that didn’t fly with her followers, she switched to black and white to signal her ever so serious apology, ever so prettily and perfectly stated, that she regretted hurting anyone’s actual need for college with her cavalier approach to the whole thing.

She’s a child on display; it’s easy to blame her. But should we? Did she even know her parents had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy her way into USC? Do these questions matter?

I think they do. And here’s why.

Even if these kids are privileged, they’re still hungry for their parents’ love. And any kid whose parents are trying to buy them into a college they’re not actually qualified for is sending the biggest, baddest message any parent can send. They are saying, “You are not good enough. Exactly as you are is not good enough, and not what I want. I want these other, external markers of your greatness. I want them so badly, I will buy them.” Being privileged does not lessen that hurt.

We know that the US college admissions process is radically unfair. I’ve written about this before, and proposed some simple solutions. Nothing less than systemic change will do, since we’re talking about a whole generation’s future. If we focus on getting as many students as possible into the colleges they are qualified to attend, with the money and programs they need to thrive, we could empower a whole generation for success. There are a few colleges taking up the challenge of retooling higher education for a life of work and learning — take a look at Georgia Tech and the new California Online Community College for bold leadership. But most colleges are not focused on the massive change required for students to thrive. By the time they catch up … well, it’s like the environment: the clock is ticking, and every day we don’t address what’s wrong, it gets harder and harder to fix it.

@OliviaJade the spotlight is on you, and you have a huge opportunity here. Young people look to you for advice. I urge you to take on the challenge of college equity and use your platform to transform the radically broken system your parents took advantage of — because they could. Show your parents, and the world, that you’re smarter and more authentic than they played you for. Use your celebrity for something good. Tell a different story. One that’s enduring and about the future; one that goes deeper than which brands will pay you to put yourself on display.

Topics:College Access

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