The college admissions scandal was, well, scandalous, and we’ve all read the continuing headlines about the scheme, its criminal leader and his cabal of test “proctors,” college coaches and at least one college administrator.
But for me, the most disturbing headline appeared in the New York Law Journal and read, “Not Worried About the Moral Issue.’ The Law Journal reported the allegation that the co-chairman of one of the most prominent law firms in America had paid ringleader Rick Singer $75,000 to have wrong answers on his daughter’s ACT test “corrected” by a test proctor in Singer’s control in order to assure an exceptionally high score on the test.
According to a wiretap transcript cited by federal prosecutors in Boston, this lawyer, Gordon Caplan, stated in a phone call to Rick Singer, who by then was cooperating with prosecutors, “I’m not worried about the moral issue here. I’m worried about the—if she’s caught doing that, you know, she’s finished.”
As a lawyer, as a certified college admissions advisor, as a former high school English teacher and as a former proctor for the College Board’s SAT examination, my reaction to this headline was multifaceted disgust. There is a lawyer’s personal moral code and the Code of Ethics for lawyers. Mr. Caplan’s law firm removed him as co-chair of the firm and suspended him, apparently thinking that if he wasn’t “worried about the moral issue here” he might also occasionally not be worried about the ethical issues either.
Morality matters in all that we do, and whether as parents helping our children with their college applications and essays or as guidance counselors and college admissions advisors, we constantly are aware that help cannot become something else, something that makes the college essay (or, for that matter, the homework assignment) our work rather that our child’s or our student’s.
The media chose not to make morality a key element in this story. The New York Law Journal implicitly did. And so must we. Parents are their children’s first teachers. Teachers and counselors stand in loco parentis. Go. Teach.