They are the best-known of the fifty people in six states now ensnared in a massive cheating scandal. Dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” by the FBI, this is the largest college admissions scheme the Department of Justice has ever prosecuted.
Sports coaches and professionals from USC, Georgetown University, Yale, Stanford, UCLA, the University of Texas, and Wake Forest have been implicated. (None of the universities has been charged with crimes.) SAT and ACT examination administrators and employees of a college counseling and preparation business have also been indicted. Admissions test scores were allegedly altered, and coaches were reportedly bribed to support the admission of unqualified students.
As the Times notes, “Authorities say the parents of some of the nation’s wealthiest and most privileged students sought to buy spots for their children at top universities, not only cheating the system, but potentially cheating other hard-working students out of a chance at a college education.”
What does this scandal say about our society?
Parents measure success by their children
From Adam and Eve to today, parents have wanted the best for their children. Those with financial means buy houses near the best schools, pay for extra-curricular activities, hire tutors, and do whatever they can to help their kids succeed.
Much of this is understandable and even commendable. What loving parents would not want their children to have greater opportunities than they have experienced?
However, this scandal reveals something deeply troubling about our culture.
In a society that measures us by where we went to college, how much money we make, what we drive and wear, where we live, how we look, and how popular we are, these allegations should not surprise us. Does anyone think that the number of parents using illegal means to help their children succeed is limited to the fifty people named in the FBI’s indictment?
We also live in a society that measures parents by their children. Many parents do the same. Peer pressure based on where our kids go to school and what they do there is ever-present.
In short, a secular society defines success by secular means. In a postmodern culture that rejects absolute truth and biblical morality, it is inevitable that some people will do whatever they can to achieve what they seek.
In this teachable moment, what should parents tell their children and themselves?
Sin costs more than it pays
The activities described in the FBI indictment allegedly continued for eight years. Those who participated must have thought that no one would know what they were doing.
But Scripture warns us: “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). God’s word adds, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9).
As the celebrities arrested this week demonstrate, just because we haven’t been caught yet doesn’t mean we won’t be. And one day, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
The children involved in this scandal are paying a high price as well. Many of those who were admitted to college illegally have now graduated. They will always wonder if they were good enough to make it on their own. And they will assume that their parents didn’t think they were.
Sin always costs more than it pays. The time to repent and make restitution is now.
Integrity pays more than it costs
What seems important today is often less important tomorrow. No one has ever asked me my college GPA. But living every day to love our Lord and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37–40) leads to lives of significance in this world and the next.
In this light, parents must be what we want our children to become. Scripture promises: “The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!” (Proverbs 20:7).
If your children imitated your character, would that be a good thing?
Before you answer, note this fact: they probably will.