Eternal Parenting

The newly disclosed scandal involving parent bribery to ensure prestigious college admission for their children has raised many questions about our current culture. In the forefront has been the issue of economic inequality as it relates to the educational system, bribery and fraudulence simply being the end point in the many ways children of the affluent are advantaged.

The support system afforded children of wealthy parents includes quality primary school education, outside tutoring, access to various extra-curricula activities and often a social network of potential influence. Also important is the advantage that comes with the ability to pay full tuition. Schools may offer support to students once admitted but compensate by seeking to admit those who do not seek aid at application for admission.

Another question raised is why the importance and significance that has been attached to admission at a handful of schools? It would seem that this has little to do with the excellence of the education offered or whether the school in question is right for a particular student. It is as if the name of the institution is in itself a password that will gain entry into a world of success.

Of course, the particular individuals who have been named and highlighted in this scandal has also focused attention on the nature of celebrity in our society. A whiff of entitlement lies in the acclaim given celebrities, suggesting to them it is their due to get whatever rewards they seek.

It is not clear whether any of the young college applicants involved had any knowledge of what their parents were doing. Of course, they now know, and one can only speculate about the impact on these young people of their parents’ actions, ostensibly on their behalf. The message seems to be that their parents considered getting into particular schools to be of greater importance than their education itself. Also, their parents did not believe they were good enough to get into these schools on their own. This in addition to affirming a value system that says it is acceptable to lie and cheat in the service of getting what you want.

The fall-out from this scandal has also once again, pointed a finger at “helicopter” parenting and the degree to which parents are involved in their children’s lives well into what was once considered adulthood. It is unfortunate when illegal, unethical and immoral behavior is viewed as the logical extension of involved parenting. In the criticism leveled at parents there is a tendency to hold parents responsible for the nature of our society and culture rather than as trying to do the best for their children within the constraints of the society as it exists.

There are reasons that parents maintain a hands-on approach to their children’s lives longer than was true in past generations, providing ongoing financial support even as children continue to live or return back to living at home. College graduates face enormous debts as a result of student loans, with fewer work opportunities that can provide life sustaining salaries thereby remaining dependent on parents later than previously expected.

Parents have been criticized for the seemingly greater emotional dependence of older children on their parents. But psychological or emotional independence is hard to achieve without financial independence. As children remain financially dependent, this may justify for both parents and children the greater involvement in their children’s lives and decision making.

In the present world, the nature of these relationships is established early on, with both parents working out of the home, without good available child-care, and the need to maintain connection by cell phone.

No wonder parents are protective of their children.