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Letter to the editor: In need of national conversation about honesty

March 19, 2019

While the recent college admissions scandal, dubbed Varsity Blues, raises troubling questions about the college admissions process, I feel the scandal has repercussions far beyond college admissions. As we now know, this scandal involved college coaches, wealthy and influential parents, and a college admissions consultant, who collaborated in illicit schemes to secure admissions to various elite universities such as Yale.

Recently, on one of the local radio stations, the announcers were asking parents to call in to say whether they would have resorted to such measures to get their children into top schools. I was surprised when some of the parents answered in the affirmative.

How, then, can we be surprised when athletes take performance-enhancing drugs, cell phone companies misrepresent their plans and politicians lie to secure votes? I feel well qualified to speak on this subject as I, too, was strongly encouraged, by my parents, to apply to various elite universities, including two Ivy League schools.

My parents, however, raised me and my brothers with strong values such as honesty and integrity, never suggesting that we cheat or falsify our records to get accepted to college. Instead, my parents encouraged us to work hard at our studies and participate in extracurricular activities.

As it turned out, I attended the University of Virginia, an elite public university with a strict honor code, which discourages cheating in two ways. First, one had to certify in writing, as a condition of acceptance, that he/she would abide by the code. This presupposes one has acted honorably in the past. Secondly (see Wikipedia), the honor code requires each student to write, at the bottom of each test or assignment, “On my honor as a student, I have neither given nor received aid on this assignment/examination.”

According to Confucius, “the strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” While I agree values start in the home, this latest scandal seems to call for a nationwide conversation about other ways we can encourage values such as honesty.

Ed Selender

Derby