Sunday, December 04, 2011

Notes on a Scandal

If you want to hear a range of opinions and reactions that might blow your mind, ask people what they think about the recent SAT cheating scandal on Long Island.

As the incident has been forefront in my mind, that's what I've been doing. Herewith, a brief playback of actual commentary, gleaned from recent conversations:

The SAT scandal is the tip of the iceberg, in terms of the cheating that goes on.
The prosecution targeted a Jewish community. Once the investigation gathers momentum they will find the Asian kids who cheat as well.
Queens College has an elaborate tests-for-drugs network in place, administered by Yeshiva kids from Long Island.
They nailed the Long Island kids. Wait until they find out what's going on in Indiana.
Test cheating at Yeshiva of Flatbush was so pervasive that I (a total straight arrow) started cheating just not to be at a disadvantage.
I remember that Yeshiva kids stole the trig Regents exam sometime in the mid-seventies, causing the test to be cancelled that year. We were overjoyed.
It was gratuitous for the newspapers -- especially the New York Jewish Week -- to name names. For instance, no one needed to know that one of the test-takers-for-money was the son of a past president of a Great Neck synagogue.
Kids routinely outsource the writing of term papers for entire courses.
At Columbia University, cheating is just a fact of college life. Some do and some don't. 
How is this scandal different from hiring high-price tutors for the SAT's? Really??
The fact that the test takers were largely the sons of successful, prominent people is significant. It signals their sadly misguided attempt to also be powerful and successful.
The scandal is part of a culture of entitlement. Parents are raising kids to believe that anything -- including undeserved grades -- can be purchased.
Some of the parents had to know this was going on. 
The scandal does not accidentally involve Jewish kids. Cheating on tests is simply not believed to be wrong in some pockets of the community.   
In the past, private school principals protected cheaters when they were the scions of wealthy and powerful parents. I can recall at least two incidents like this when I was in high school. This time, the head of Great Neck North, a public school, was able to speak out because his funding is not dependent on protecting the guilty.

In about 40 minutes, I will head over to the Jewish Theological Seminary to teach three classes to the fine students of the Rebecca and Israel Ivry Prozdor program. In my classes I will be talking about the cheating scandal, eager to hear what the students think. But I will not report on my findings. Instead, I will leave it to the students to blog or report or talk about, adding their voices to the on-going conversation about a rip in our social and ethical fabric that saddens me so much I want to cry.

1 comment:

Frume Sarah said...

I had to read through some of these twice to make certain that I was reading them correctly.

I was...