I recently read an article about the ongoing college admissions scandal, in which a collection of bribes was allegedly used to influence admission decisions of several universities. Fifty people have been indicted. While I am saddened by the lack of morality, I am not surprised. Getting ahead and having the façade of being the best seem to be dominant goals in our society, when perhaps developing integrity and a sense of perseverance in the face of opposition should be more predominant.
Often, our society accepts and lifts up the erroneous qualities instead of the principled ones. For example, some live TV shows exhibit deceitfulness and crudeness in a person and sometimes idolize it. Also, in some instances, being devious and aggressive have replaced creativity, intelligence and politeness. Even some of our leaders, people we have elected to represent us, are antagonistic and use language befitting middle school bullies. These questionable people are on top for the moment, so some might think that type of behavior is justified, even necessary. It is not.
Respectively, it is not my intention to sound like I am talking from an elevated stance. I mean, I used to be a pretty ruthless banker. Sometimes when I would cash a check for a customer, I wouldn’t always ask if they wanted an envelope. I was an intense teller.
And this discourse is more of an observation. One that brings forth a prevalent trend. For example, there is strong opinion that cheating has become worse in schools, especially with the evolution of the smart phone, and now the Smartwatch. Personally, I could not work the smart watch. I tried. When I owned one, I would often receive calls on my cell phone, and my Smartwatch would answer. So, I was holding my phone in one hand and talking to my watch on the other. I almost wrecked. Finally, I put down my coffee and bowl of cereal and drove responsibly.
Seriously, I have heard it said several times from students (and some adults), they feel they need to do anything to get ahead, and that includes cheating. I’ve heard it explained that if opportunity arises and cheating is an option, then it should be taken advantage of. This makes me sad.
Comparatively, when I was younger, I too wanted to advance in life, and I constantly worried about what I was going to do after high school. I stress the word “worried,” because I knew even back then, a definite job from a chosen path is never a guarantee, and a lot of money is often spent and lost attempting to acquire a not-so-sure career. I’m still paying on mine as a matter of fact. Of course, it is a little less now that I sold my smart watch. Regardless, if I was worried back then, I cannot imagine the stress our current kids are dealing with.
So, when I read the article about the college admissions scandal, I felt strongly what the parents and faculty did were wrong, but I felt sorry for the kids. Beyond dealing with the public embarrassment, what are they ultimately being taught? What kind of people are they going to be? Are they going to continue to think they can trade integrity for success?
A simple proverb I often share with my students is, “Always be the good guy.” That might sound simplistic, but many times the application is not. I think everyone is presented with situations in which we are not sure what to do morally. That is where this little saying comes in handy. What would the good guy do? We all wrestle with choices, and that is life. That “wrestling” is often what determines us, and what many times changes us. If we bypass the struggle, moral or otherwise, then something is lost.
Comparatively, one of my favorite stories is Jacob wrestling with the angel, from the Bible. He was alone, he had an obstacle, and he had a goal. One of the most remarkable details about his story was that his name changed after his ordeal. So, symbolically and literally, he changed after the confrontation, and remember, he would not give up until he was blessed. That perseverance against an obstacle is often more important than success, and more often than not, results in success.
In reflection, maybe I shouldn’t give up on the smart watch. Nevertheless, I hope justice prevails in the admissions scandal, and I hope those children involved find some integrity beyond their current examples. Just as fear should not justify prejudice, neither should ambition justify dishonesty.