Operation Varsity Blue

Unless you’ve given up television for Lent, you’ve no doubt heard about the elite parents who allegedly conspired to get their kids into elite universities. Some schools are Ivy League, but not all were. They used a man who ran college prep center to game the college entrance tests and create fraudulent athletic histories to

This story and the one on people who allegedly got international students visas through the fraud of having imposters take the TOEFL English proficiency test. Neither story really surprises me, but nonetheless when corruption is revealed as fact, and your worst fears are exposed, I feel disgust.

When I taught in South Korea, an English professor gave his friend the questions for our school’s entrance exam. After this came to light, both men were arrested and jailed. The Ministry of Education (MOE) had contacted the university president had been told that there was cheating at our school, the president said that was impossible and didn’t help much with the investigation. Because the claim was proved, the president felt guilty for not believing the MOE and he resigned. I didn’t think the president should have resigned, but I was impressed with his sense of honor. I doubt that will happen with this case.

The stars involved are getting a lot of negative attention, which is part of the price for their crime, yet there are other millionaires who did worse. As many as 750 parents and coaches are part of this.

I hope most see the evidence and realize the right thing to do is to plead guilty and hope for mercy. It’s hard to say what a fit punishment should be, but we aspire to compete on a level playing field and these folks sought out an easier route.

It’s a shame. Some kids aren’t suited for a competitive college. If these kids needed to cheat to get in, how would they be able to stay in without cheating? College itself is stressful, so the stress of applying is no excuse to cheat. There is no excuse to cheat. There are other schools that would take these kids based on their own efforts and achievements. There’s no reason to Photoshop an applicant’s face on to the body of an athlete. How low would you go? Did the students see these fraudulent documents upload on their application? To what extent were the kids in on this?

The truth will out and it has. I hope colleges clean house now.

Operation Varsity Blue also reminded me of the discovery of rampant cheating that was reported with the English proficiency test where I worked in China. A couple of us reported the students and the agency they used to get higher scores. One girl took the TOEFL test in July and got an average of 45 (an 80 was needed). She paid a service $3000 in August and got a 98. No one’s English improves that much in a few weeks.

I reported this to the testing company and to my school, but while we were told an investigation was conducted. None of the four students suffered any consequences. We had recordings of students talking to the shady company that procured the high test scores and sent them to various agencies and newspapers. No one was interested. I submitted the information again this morning. I hope this fraudulent service is shut down.

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The Wings of the Dove

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It seems like I’ve been grudging through The Wings of the Dove by Henry James forever. Every summer and winter my friend Bill and I read a classic novel and discuss it online. Our last book was Zola’s Germinal, which was full of blood, sweat and tears. James’ writing is the opposite in every way imaginable. Zola was earthy and real. James is ethereal and intellectual. Zola crafted characters with whom I sympathized, even his villains had their reasons and adversity. I don’t like a single character in The Wings of the Dove.

I haven’t finished and though I’m just 30 pages from the finish line and have now given myself permission to skim, I dread my daily reading. The situation in Wings of the Dove is that Kate Croy can’t marry her love Merton Densher because he’s too poor. She lives with a rich aunt who’s going to marry her off well. When Milly, an orphaned American heiress with a terminal mystery disease arrives, Kate plots to get her lover to cozy up to Milly. She figures if Milly leaves Densher her fortune, then after Milly dies, which hopefully will be soon, Kate and Densher can marry. How charming.

It bugged me that we never know what Milly has. If it’s in the book it’s hidden amongst the long-winded writing that includes few concrete description. James wanted to convey the psychology of his vapid characters. I could not care less about what they thought. Also, I don’t think he succeeded in conveying true consciousness since most the time when I’m thinking, my mind is wandering. I may think about a work situation when I’m bored in a conversation or unable to listen at church. Whenever we’re privy to Kate or Milly or some other characters’ thoughts, they’re in the situation.

I thought Densher was weak, and hence unattractive, for buying into this insipid plot. I’d say the same for Kate, who didn’t realize her plan might not go as she figured. Had she never heard the cliché, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”? Evidently not. Milly seemed like a will o’the wisp who floats through the story allowing herself to naively be taken advantage of.

I thought watching the movie would make reading easier or the characters more sympathetic, but it didn’t. I didn’t like the movie much either. While I read, I often just plowed through content to miss a lot. Sometimes I’d consult a reference on the story to see if I was missing something, but my take on the chapters captured all the key events.

I can’t wait to read something else. I know some people must love James or his work  wouldn’t be considered classic, but I don’t care for him at all.

Zzzzzzzz.

How to Steal a Million

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Starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, How to Steal a Million is another fun, witty movie. Hepburn plays the daughter of an art forger. When her home is broken into by O’Toole, her father and she fear that his forgeries will be revealed. Later they fear that a sculpture lent to a museum will be proven to be a fraud when it’s examined for insurance. Throughout the caper delights.

It’s a lighthearted romp with a clever final heist and a surprisingly moral end. It’s lots of fun and Hepburn and O’Toole are quite entertaining.

Scam

I think I’ve unearthed a scam in our area. This afternoon I got a call from the sentry that the Clean Environment Air Duct man was here. Well, I was the only one home and no one had organized an estimate. I called both of my parents and neither was available. I sent the estimator packing as no one authorized or would authorize this service.

He left a card with a big green recycling symbol, no address and no name. He wrote his cell phone number and an illegible name on the card. (Is it Tom or John? Clearly it could be either.)

Just now this guy called back saying that he was here and the homeowners had set up an appointment. Wrong. Neither of my parents set up the appointment and he got a bit aggressive before my mother ended the call. I’m wondering if this is just a scam.

A friend told me that her parents got duped by a traveling fix it guy who noticed their roof had hale damage. Really? How do you notice that from street level? Unfortunately, her parents believed him and paid him a tidy sum and it’s not clear that this guy did any more than bang his hammer on their roof a bit.

Just a couple minutes ago the scam artist, John/Tom at 847-630-5560 of “Clean Environment” Air Duct Specialists called back saying he should have apologized. I agreed, told him we were in the midst of dinner and no interest in any estimates. I wonder who gave them my parents’ information. Could it have been the air conditioning repair people from last month? Could it have been an online source?