True parents' cheating programs convince a whole social class that the system is rigid and that some are massively more similar than others.
How much does a private college education cost?
I asked this question last week to a group of high schools in Compton, one of the poorest communities in the Los Angeles area. It was a long break.
"A thousand dollars" asked a young man carefully.
"Five thousand," said another, more self-adhesive.
I managed with the class up to $ 30,000 before giving them the right answer: more than a quarter million dollars.
That's the amount you need to get a basic education from one of the best private schools in America, including some of those mentioned in college assumptions scandal that broke this week. Many offer generous scholarships, and many students are supported by state financial support. Still, thousands are hoping to go there to boast to come up with mindboggling sums.
I expected gasps when I said "a quarter million" but I didn't get them. This is because boys and girls grow up in Compton and other poorer parts of Southern California, which largely exist on $ 25,1
Most of these families have nothing saved. They belong to 40 percent of Americans who have no more than $ 400 in cash at hand or in a bank and 39.7 million in poverty.
They endure stress, fear, insecurity, unemployment, health problems and mental health problems. they protect themselves in homes where several residents share one or two rooms where the threat of eviction is permanent, where there is no private place to study, where free time goes to menial jobs that can help family financing, rather than reading or promoting education; they come from neighbors where gangs, drugs and crime are shining and knocking out their children with the power of a neodymium magnet away from tough promises of a distant future.
There are no carrots for these children, no incentives are offered for long-term long-term success. The middle class scions are taught from day one, that if they do A or B now, they get X or Y as a reward later; But "later" does not affect when your goal simply goes through tomorrow.
Children who can succeed in this environment do so against extraordinary odds. Because success is not a concrete thing: it is the kind of opportunity for the end of a rainbow that they see in movies and magazines, disconnected from their daily lives like the big houses and mansions of Hancock Park and Palisades – which can be just a few miles away, but that distance feels wider than a sea.
Cynics who protest against "affirmative action" have no idea that making it to the university when you come from these roots requires exceptional energy and will and a gravity-intensive readiness to take on the odds. It requires an inner strength that always rubs itself into self-doubt, a desire to start a journey as dangerous as anything ever taken by Lewis and Clark.
They have no awareness of the reality that such children face – as a teenage girl, I met with whom to study in bed with a flashlight under the blankets and wake up in the middle of the night to do so because half a person sleeps in same room and it is too noisy when they are awake. Or another young woman who yearns to concentrate on improving her English and willingly devoting herself two hours or more to reading every night – the amount of advisers – except she must help her grandmother clean house because her dad is off and her mother is unemployed.
Over the last few weeks I have encountered many young people like me and many colleagues have joined a dozen or so high school in southern and eastern Los Angeles along with others in Compton and Inglewood to present a new program, young the leadership union, which will kick off this summer.
Fellowship is a common endeavor between THR Big Brothers Big Sisters and several prominent media companies (WME, Amazon Studios, Imax, Entertainment One and Starz) who have been working in the past year to address shortcomings of diversity in Hollywood's power centers. Along with three major universities (USC, Emerson College and Howard University), we have created a program that will offer a special curriculum for high schools and seniors, provide them with paid internships, college scholarships, and eventually jobs. The idea is to attract the best and brightest teenagers and open their eyes to a variety of entertainment opportunities, linking them with mentors who will steer them on the way – we hope – to the top.
The package does not come cheap. It costs $ 10,000 or more per student, and does not count on internships and endless amounts of volunteers must donate to each one. You would think that boys and girls would jump on the chance to join.
And yet I have been shocked at how few applications apply. Even with the support of the Los Angeles Mayor, the superintendents of Compton and Inglewood School District and deeply committed high school graduates, only 10-20 percent of students participating in our presentation leave an application. Because when they have reached the age of 15 or 16, they have come to believe that the system is rigged against them. They have already consciously or unconsciously built up an invisible wall between themselves and success. Sixty-five boys and girls promised to show up at one of our presentations last week; only 16 did. Then the school's advisor apologized. "They have so little confidence," he explained, "they won't take the risk."
These children live bright years away from the offspring of men and women who allegedly have participated in a comprehensive education collaboration, bribing officials to bring their children to a good college or other. They live in another galaxy from where an actress might consider giving $ 15,000 in backseat to a man just to raise his daughter's SAT score by 400 points. The idea that a disadvantaged teenager can ever achieve something like her 1420 points, when he or she does not have any guidance, no guidance, until preparation and none of the thought protection procedures that extend for several years in advance for these tests is beyond the scope of the the imagination of the poorest teenagers.
There seems to be no link between these young people and those from the rich Hollywood clans who have been the subject of a scandal sucking lawyers, businessmen, fashion designers and investors, all of whom have wealth as living in poorer communities only can dream of. And yet there is.
It is not only that, by placing his child in a university that he or she is not entitled to participate in, they take a place from another who fully deserves it.
It's not just that they promote an application process that has a lot of problematic aspects – from an overly dependent on SAT (which leans towards affluent middle-class children) to an acceptance of "older" contenders into a rule-bend for sports stars that can barely keep afloat when it comes to actual studies.
It is because such actions convince a whole social class that the system is rigged. It persuades them, there is no point in fighting because the fight is already stacked. It is hammering into the lesson they have learned throughout their lives: that in this country of equality, some are massively more alike than others.
I hope Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are not guilty (and indeed they deserve the presumption of innocence) because it would break my heart thinking they were trying to help their own children, they have hurt so many others.