I can't really decide what we should make of the latest earth-shattering development in the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal. I'm sure there is much wisdom to be extracted and many life lessons to be learned, but to me they aren't readily apparent. This is due at least in part to the fact that it's so hard to know whether to cheer or jeer, or perhaps do a little of both, at least as far as the students whose lives have been so abruptly upended.
There is plenty of blame and shame to go around, for sure, but the kids really seem to have taken it in the shorts. Their folks may be going to jail, briefly, but their "educations"-; or whatever remains to be salvaged of them-; will be a joke for the rest of their lives. Maybe in Hollywood charisma matters much more than credentials. Maybe the kids didn't really care that much about a diploma. But their parents clearly wanted it all - whatever the cost to their children.
I have no sympathy for the scummy "snowplow" parents who cleared the path instead of merely helicoptering over the whole deal, and whose own goals and fragile egos are very much also in play here, whatever the unrealistic aspirations might have been that their kids may have actually had. It was never very clear from the published comments and videos whether some of these kids even wanted to go to college.
We may never know how much the students themselves really knew about what was going on when they were dressing up, posing, and pretending to be jocks or whatever for the camera. After all, their folks are phonies for a living, so maybe lying and make believe were just regular parts of their lives.
When the dust finally settles and we look back on the whole deal, one key takeaway for me comes from the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen-- as is so often the case. He sings in Long Time Comin' that his fondest wish for his kids would be that "your mistakes will be your own, that your sins will be your own" and obviously not those of your parents. He knows very well that even legends and legacies can let you down if you're not careful and let yourself get played.
And frankly, you still have to feel a little bad for these kids, who were merely the latest props and pawns in their parents' competition with the rest of their crowd for bragging rights and some degree of offspring referential legitimacy. After all, if your kid got into some fancy school, how dumb an actor or salesman could you really be? If the kids' best interests got lost in the mix, and their futures got trashed, well, there's a lesson there for them as well. I suppose it's just life in the big city. With parents like these, it's not hard to understand how the kids are turning out.
Still, at this unclear and uncertain juncture, you've also got to grudgingly admire anyone who gets thrown for such a loop and then picks themselves up, dusts themselves off, and carries on. And, lo and behold, here they come again. Like the Terminator, they're back.
As of December 1st, one of Lori Loughlin's daunting daughters, Olivia Jade, has resurfaced - much to no one's real surprise. Jade was summarily booted along with her sibling, Isabella Rose Gianulli, from the University of Southern California amidst admissions bribery allegations lodged against her parents-;which they have repeatedly denied. Olivia had suspended all of her social media activity for many, undoubtedly painful, months - without, of course, taking down or closing her accounts. Now we have learned that she has tentatively returned to the fold, and to her faithful followers, along with the relieved and resurgent media, which was quick to launch its latest feeding frenzy. Her sister Bella, so far, not so much, but she can't possibly be that far behind.
Are we witnessing new heights of hubris and chutzpah? Dealing with heroines to be cheered or villainesses who should be roundly and regularly condemned? Or, as business builders who've all hit our own bumps in the road, should we, at a minimum, be acknowledging or, in fact, celebrating this latest Phoenix-like rise of a mini-celebrity (or two) from the ashes? After all, what does college really have to do with pushing pancake makeup and selling lip gloss? There's a business to be attended to and bucks to be made, so let's get it on.
Olivia's steadfast refusal to close all those cosmetic cases, turn off the video cameras, fold up her tents, and just skulk away is worth noting. Is this a truly impressive demonstration of dogged persistence and perseverance by a budding young entrepreneur who absolutely refuses to take "No" for an answer? Could be. And, of course, why would anyone want to take "No" as an answer, when it's so clear and so easy to keep taking the dough? We live in the land of forever hopes, delusional dreams, and successive second chances, so why not? The Internet may never forget anything, but social media must have the shortest memory in memory.
Early returns are encouraging. Olivia Jade reported in her first video message (already viewed some five million times) that she felt an overpowering need to rejoin her 1.4 million followers online and to continue to educate and instruct her 1.9 million YouTube subscribers about all matters of beauty, exercise, diet and such. The relief across the web was palpable and the joy immense. So, she's back in the saddle and, by all appearances, not much worse for the wear. Maybe Bernie Madoff will preside, and Elizabeth Holmes will give her away, at her soon-to-be-announced nuptials. Could happen. Never say never.
But seriously, what do you tell people when they ask you about this? Your employees, your students, your kids? Is anyone even keeping score these days? Does cheating matter or is it just so much a part of our everyday lives that we take this behavior for granted or assume that everyone's doing it? Is this new-found tolerance actually about forgiveness or second chances? And does everyone - however low, deceitful and unapologetic - deserve and get a second chance?
And finally, is it really enough to just find it all disgusting or do we have a greater responsibility than that? You start to wonder why somebody doesn't step up and do something about all this-; and then you realize that you are somebody.