I realize that the film and TV "stars" and other parental crooks who participated in and funded the admission application scams, the test-taking manipulations, and the other outright frauds in order to get their unqualified, but hugely entitled, kids into highly-selective colleges such as USC and Yale were immoral assholes and social cripples. By that I mean, they couldn't have cared less about the well-qualified and far more deserving kids whose places at these schools were taken by their precious and pampered children.

Hopefully these parents will all get the comeuppance that they so richly deserve and be forever estranged from their offspring who were allegedly, utterly, (insert some considerable skepticism here) unaware of their dear folks' heroic and "behind-the-scenes" efforts to secure those fraudulent acceptances and awesome test scores on their behalf. Maybe some of the kids really didn't know. Hard to imagine, but stranger things have occurred.

While I'm sure some of the crooked parents may technically escape punishment by claiming they were mere "donors" like so many others, what is inescapable is the fact that they did the deeds and tried to pull these cheats off. They may think their biggest mistake was getting caught, but we know better. A lie may fool other people, but it tells the truth about you.

I also understand that the legacy college admission system still in place at many other schools is just as fraught as they are at USC and Yale. You know, the ones that have the special side doors for jocks.  Our elite colleges are rife with compromise and challenges because it's basically a "money talks" game as well, but that's an issue for another day and certainly doesn't excuse this bad behavior in any case. Sadly though, it is just another really bad message for the kids: that who you know is far more important than what you know.

And I think - speaking of the little darlings - that it's fitting, regardless of their particular state of knowledge, for the kids to be tarred (at least for a while) as well as their parents by the stench and stigma of this latest demonstration that money doesn't care who makes it or how it gets spent. The parents are clearly beyond salvation, but maybe the kids and others tempted by similar scummy shortcuts will learn some modest lessons about actually earning and deserving what you get instead of having it handed to you. Or maybe not.

Honestly, it's all so very Gatsby-esque:

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)

So, it's pretty easy to feel superior to these people and to profess concern for the students they displaced and deprived of the opportunity to attend some of these fine (but sloppy and negligent) schools. However, in the end, the actual numbers of students involved in the whole deal are pretty modest. Maybe the whole stinking scam took away a couple of dozen seats in the incoming classes at a few high-visibility schools.

I see a much bigger, and neglected, concern that continues to get worse each year.  We're all complicit in a much more pervasive and damaging problem, which annually impacts thousands of deserving students across the country. And instead of condemning it or even discussing it, we celebrate and encourage the bad behavior and ignore the obvious impact. 

I'm talking about the high school guidance counselors and coaches who encourage their best and most needy students to apply to zillions of schools and to seek the maximum amounts of scholarship dollars possible from every one of them. For no good reason and for the worst possible reasons. This fundamentally selfish process is then aided and abetted by seasonal, ceaseless and stupid media coverage about individual students who heedlessly run up the score and accumulate multiple levels of scholarship offers from many colleges so that they and their high schools can brag about the sheer dollar volumes of overtures that they have secured.

Frankly, it's just greed of another kind and no one seems to care about the hundreds of other students who are not offered any financial assistance because Bob or Betty has rolled up a few million dollars (literally, millions of dollars) from many colleges and universities they haven't the slightest intention of attending. This is just about bagging the Benjamins.

Now you might think that it's not a zero sum game or that once Bob and Betty pick their schools, all those sucked-up dollars that they've been hanging on to will magically find their way back to the students who were shut out initially. But that's not the way the world of scholarships works. Because everything happens in real time and simultaneously. It's true that almost every school puts out more scholarships than they expect to be accepted by matriculating students (just like the airlines oversell seats) and that there's a lot of discounting, predictive analysis and yield management in the process. But, say what you will, grabbing for as much of the gold as you can is gonna leave a lot of less fortunate students in the lurch.

Choices have to be made, sacrifices and compromises abound, a lot of smart kids end up with their second or third choices because of financial considerations - all so that the papers can run a few stories about the number of schools that made so many offers for big dollars to a couple of hometown heroes. This is nothing to brag about or write home to report. The recognition for a few smart kids is nice, but the grasping this behavior encourages and the greed and selfishness that surrounds it is simply sleazy.

I think this is just as important a lesson for today as what we're learning from the admissions scams. Our kids need to know when enough is enough, that just because you can doesn't always mean you should, and that it's okay in almost every case to leave something on the table for others.