Little college darlings: Do the work and take some chances at school

April 2019 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

Every once in a while I run across a news story that makes me laugh out loud. And, no, I’m not talking about Congress this time, although those guys are always good for a few chuckles.

This time, I’m talking about parents. Not all parents, just those who would pay any amount of money to get their kids into the “right” college.

First, let me say this about the “right” colleges. Some of the dumbest people I’ve ever met went to Ivy League colleges.

Also, some of the smartest people I know never even went to college, unless you count the school of hard knocks.

The idea that the Ivy League – or other “top” colleges – have the franchise on all wisdom and knowledge is laughable. And the idea that parents would spend piles of money cheating on SAT and ACT tests to get their little darlings into those colleges is even funnier yet.

Beyond that, it shows how little faith those parents have in their progeny. I’m thinking of the father who paid a test proctor $75,000 to correct his daughter’s answers on the ACT test – without his daughter’s knowledge.

There are so many things wrong with this scenario I almost don’t know where the start, but I’ll give it a try.

First, the father is a high-powered lawyer. I don’t want to impugn the legal community, but ethics was never a strong suit among the lawyers I’ve dealt with. Paying a raft of money to cheat on a test wouldn’t even cause a flutter of conscience for some of the lawyers I’ve encountered.

Other parents were even more creative. Some bribed the coaches of athletic teams to get their little darlings accepted as recruited athletes.

I don’t care about college athletics. It’s a waste of money and a distraction from the fact that many colleges are academically weak and not worth the tuition they charge.

I went to three colleges – one private, one public and one military. The determining factor in how much I learned was my efforts, not the reputation of the college. Whether students go to a community college or Harvard, I will guarantee that they will get an excellent education if they work hard.

If they are slackers and don’t go to class and don’t do their assignments and lab work, they won’t learn a thing and their tuition will go down the drain.

I do have another tip for students: gamble. When I was a student at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks – nickname: the Harvard of the North – my geology professor issued a challenge to the class. If any of us could beat him in the Equinox Marathon later that month, he’d have us over to his house for a steak dinner with all of the trimmings. If he won, the students would have to work in the geology lab all semester for free.

My roommate had just finished riding his bicycle from Mexico to Fairbanks, so he was in pretty good shape. I ran six miles a day and fancied myself as a running machine. A 26.2-mile race would be a piece of cake. We both raised our hands to accept the challenge from the professor, who looked about 400 years old.

As it turns out, he had been making that challenge every year for the last 20 years – and never lost. We didn’t end his streak. In fact, we didn’t even make it to the end of the marathon. But we did learn a lot about geology.

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