Editor’s Note: Gerry Brooks is an elementary school principal in Lexington, Kentucky. He is the author of “Go See the Principal,” a book of essays about the life of an educator. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion at CNN.
The nation is in an uproar about the latest college admissions scandal. Some wealthy parents flagrantly broke the rules and the law, and spent a ton of money, to make sure their children got into elite schools.
The scandal even blew up more than usual because it ensnared the actors Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. No one could believe our beloved Aunt Becky from “Full House” would do such a thing.
Do you know who isn’t surprised by the situation? Every educator in America. This thing occurs all the time, in every school. Maybe not at the same scale, with the same amounts of cash, but bad parental behavior and entitlement are old news.
When a parent signs a reading log saying a child read for 10 minutes that night but they really didn’t, because they were out late for a sports event or just didn’t have time, they are basically doing the same thing. They believe a rule or policy is not important or dumb or optional. Do you know who else thought the rules were dumb? Aunt Becky.
You have to understand what went on with these parents. What were they doing? They were trying to do what they believed was best for their child, yet they forgot what was best for the child. Parents circumvent rules, policies (and even laws) because they feel the rules are hurting, hindering or causing stress for their children or simply because they think the rules do not apply to them.
Understand that, and you’ll understand why no educator is surprised.
Some people will say lying about your child reading at night is different from lying on a college application. It’s not like a dishonest reading log denies another student a spot in a particular college.
OK, agreed, but what about the parents who lie about where their children live in order to get them into a school with a better sports team? They believe what they are doing is best for their child. However, there is a child (who actually lives in the school district) sitting on the bench not getting playing time. Do you know who thought she was doing what was best for her child? Aunt Becky.
We set up rules, policies and laws for a reason. Sometimes I think rules, policies and laws are ridiculous and I should not have to follow them. But if I violate them, what kind of example am I setting? I think that is also part of the uproar. These parents have basically said, “We understand this is a rule, but it doesn’t apply to us because we think we have a better idea we that will benefit us.”
When you drive around parking cones in the school parking lot because you have to get to work, you are showing your child the rules don’t apply to you. When you send in Mountain Dew in your child’s thermos for their birthday even though the school does not allow soda for lunches, you are saying to the child, “I understand there is a rule against soda but this is a special occasion so I really shouldn’t have to abide by that rule.” Do you know who else feels like they shouldn’t abide by rules? Aunt Becky.
A rule, policy or law is there to be followed, hopefully for a good reason. When you choose to flout it, you’re basically saying to your child “I know there’s a rule, but I choose not to follow it because I think I know what’s best for our family.”
Isn’t that what Aunt Becky and all these parents did? Is that what you do also? I would certainly raise my hand to admit that sometimes I am Aunt Becky, too, when it comes to what’s best for my children.
Not many of us could pay $500,000 to falsely show that our child was on a sports team. Very few people could pay $15,000 to have SAT scores bumped up. But all of us can sign a reading log when our child didn’t actually read. All of us can drive around traffic cones put out for the safety of the kids because it’s inconvenient.
All of us can “over help” a child on a science fair project because we want them to win. I can’t tell you how many times I wished I could hang the 1st Place Science Fair medal around the parent’s neck, not the child’s.
We are all Aunt Beckys, just on a smaller scale.