The headlines surrounding the college bribery scandal are like something out of a bargain-bin tabloid.
From “Full House” and Hallmark Channel alum Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband, and social media influencer daughter Olivia Jade, to “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman, the controversy that confirmed some of our worst fears – that in many cases, America’s elite colleges really are pay-to-play – is like a rolling list of low-tier celebrities who haven’t been relevant since Blockbuster Video, if at all.
Let’s get real.
While celebrity-centric headlines may be amusing to read while waiting in the checkout line at Shaw’s, the mainstream press has a responsibility to look at wider, more serious implications beyond the off-red carpet.
The college admissions scandal is more important than a corny sitcom that can only be described as the Mormon version of spicy. It’s bigger than Target fashion designers, spoiled YouTubers, or the blue-ray DVD sets your retired aunt dusts off when she’s bored of “General Hospital.”
The controversy points to an entrenched American tradition of elitism, classism, and bribery. And though we’re all shocked to find out that Loughlin may not be as wholesome as human shoulder pad Rebecca Donaldson, we can’t let her ilk steal the spotlight from the staggering wealth inequality the scandal makes explicit.
For the ultra-wealthy, the American Dream can be bought – $500,000 bribes are nothing for the millionaires accused in Operation Varsity Blues. But let’s talk about the more important issue – all the kids they outbid. With all the complaints about affirmative action giving people of color an unfair advantage, we can’t ignore the power of a big, white check.
The poor are disproportionately disadvantaged by the admissions bribery backdoor, without the contacts or the money to buy their way into school – and according to a Vox article, “What the college admissions scandal says about racial inequality,” black and Hispanic kids are particularly at risk. Money can buy better tutors, better schools, and now, as the scandal shows, better test scores. For kids in poorer communities without as much educational funding, the odds are often daunting.
Further, a New York Times article states that in the ultra-selective Stuyvesant High School, often the training ground for families with Ivy League ambitions, only seven black students were admitted out of 895 spots. After the story broke, a handful of black students were added – but it remains to be seen if Stuyvesant will continue its commitment to diversity once the controversy dies down.
Forgive me for not wiping my tears at Olivia Jade’s cancelled vacation in the Bahamas.
It goes without saying that better-qualified students shouldn’t be put on the sidelines just because they don’t have the money or the fame to buy their way in. But as the American public grows increasingly aware of income inequality and the injustices of the elite, we can’t let stories of B- and C-list celebs overtake our collective memory.
It is, of course, promising that the rich and famous are being held accountable – but sensational, clickbait-style headlines distract from the bigger point.
Leave Loughlin and Huffman to the tabloids – they’ve spent enough time in the limelight. Income inequality isn’t as salacious as Becky behaving badly, but it’s a much more important, impactful story.
The media is the nation’s collective voice. Let’s hand the mic to people who can’t buy themselves a podium.