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  • Jennifer Z. Major

The letter of the law.

Author photo-New Mexico State Fairgrounds, Fort Sumner, NM

In case you've been living under a rock in a cave in the tundra with no WiFi and your phone and laptop died, then you've heard about Operation Varsity Blues and the scandal rocking Hollywood.

To sum it up: rich and famous parents got busted for cheating and bribing their kids into posh schools.

First, and this is very important, people should understand that while Canada and the US appear to be very similar?

Yeahno, we are not.

It all starts at the front door. In Canada, unless it's summertime and everything is dry and summery and there's no mud and it's like, summer?

Off. With. The. Shoes.

Our money is prettier.

Hockey is ours.

And yes, we have summer here. Don't bring your parka to the border crossing in July.

So, school...

In Canada, higher learning institutions are WAY less pricey.

And most of the time...THIS IS A VERY BASIC EXPLANATION, SO PLEASE DON'T GO NUTS...admission to those institutes primarily involves academic excellence.

We don't do the SAT thing here.

No long essays, etc...

There are no nationally standardized tests for university acceptance.

Each school has its own application process.

Yes, some schools are harder to get into, like The University of Toronto, or the University of British Columbia. Yes, sometimes people get in because their parents are famous, or rich, or both, but those people still have to earn the marks to stay there. It is a rare thing to graduate from university (we don't call it "college" unless it's an actual college) with a GPA in the 1.5 range.

Bottom line: entrance is a different animal here, and so is the whole college culture. We don't have much in the way of "Greek life", nor is football a huge thing. (Unless you go to Mount Allison and your initials are DP. Waves at DP.)

So, now that we're caught up, we can discuss Lori and Felicity.

Yes, that was a jump, but you're smart...

Firstly, I do comprehend the difficulty of getting into a US school.

We have several offspring who have attended, or are attending, university, and we know how hard the work is. We know how late the hours are. We know the look of the Exam Week Zombie. And I've listened as my American friends tell of the truly stressful experience of the US college application process.

Yes, it is grueling. But I am stunned at the parents who would willingly engage in criminal behaviour to benefit their children.

No, I don't mean stealing a vial of insulin in Caracas.

I mean hiring a company whose specific role is to illegally acquire a college admission for a child for whom academic merit is not enough to gain entrance into, ohhh, let's pick USC. about rowing.

From what the FBI is saying, many of the students had no knowledge of their parent's activities that led to such things as a spot on the rowing team.

But now most people with access to the news do.

As aside... I know a rower. That girl has muscles. Like, biceps, triceps, quads and calves. One of the young ladies involved in this scandal apparently got into USC as a rower. One look at any photo of her? Yeahno. Yes, she may be fit, but from her build, she's no rower.

I most certainly understand a parent's heart aching for their beloved son or daughter. But people, when a college placement is bought through fraud, bribes, lies and cheating? When a kid is sent off with the belief that he or she earned that spot?

And then everyone finds out that the kid is there because Mommy met with a broker, and that Daddy wasn't there because he was at the bank getting the half a million dollars to slide across the table?

That kid is either thinking "I don't care, I'm me and I deserve this spot." Or? Soul-crushing shame. Hello broken hearts and years of family counselling.

We've all met people those parents who are Those Parents.

People who would do ANYTHING for their little bundles of joy, precious armfuls of sweetness sent from heaven on the gossamer wings of trilling angels...babies who are significantly more precious than any other precious babies within a 9000 mile radius. Babies who turn into darlings who look down their surgically corrected noses and spew disgust on anyone who drinks tap water. At preschool.

(Did I mention that all babies are precious? Yes? Okay good. Also, not all babies are cute. Admit it. You know I'm right. Look, I have proof! They called her "Muffin", it was 1977...I may have referred to her as Porridge. She was a bit lumpy around the personality. She threw at metal picture frame at someone I knew and hit him on the forehead. Blood was involved. All the kid got was "Now, Muffin...". Weird, they never came back for another visit...)

I digress...

I actually had someone say to me one day at a beach, as I was taking pictures of our kids having fun, and I swear on a stack of Dairy Milks that this is true, "Please don't post any photos of my children online. We don't want them to be kidnapping targets."

I choked on my own spit.

Then I calmly promised not to do any posting of the little angels online.

Why? Because I've met those kids. And any kidnapping situation would devolve into the grand tradition of a certain 1910 short story by O. Henry in which the kidnappers lose their minds and then pay the father to take the kid back.

Then there are parents, famous and wealthy, or not, who expect their kids to earn what they possess. A friend of mine told me the story about how her son wanted a new bike. "Fine, you can get a new bike as soon as you earn the money for it."

The dude was not happy. Even as the end of summer was approaching, he still had his too small, not fabulous bike when he'd go riding in the evening with his friends He was not thrilled, but he hadn't earned quite enough at his summer job picking vegetables on a nearby farm. So he talked to his parents about them lending him the last fraction of the cost. It wasn't much. But, nope. They told him that he needed to earn every penny on his own. And he did, at a back-breaking job. My friend told me that she'd never seen such pride on his face as when he waltzed into the bike shop and paid cash for his very nice bike. He also said that earning all the money himself before he bought it was a huge deal.

As parents, we want to teach our kids to work hard, take pride in a job well done, to be good and kind to those around them. To laugh with, not at.

We carry them in our arms and then on our shoulders. We work hard to teach them the values they need so that they will be good people, so that they only reason they look down at someone is to help them up. So that the only time they whisper behind someone else's back is to say "I'm here, you can do this!" So that when they see someone lost and alone that they know to call for help.

So that when they see or experience lying and cheating that they know the searing heat in their chest is from shame for those who've stooped so low, and not the welling of pride for succeeding.

I feel bad for those involved. Not because they got caught, but because they will never have the same relationships with those kids for whom they knowingly and willingly broke the law.

The questions floating around now are variations of "Mom, Dad? How could you?"

Whether it's "How could you cheat?" or "How could you get caught?" The results are similar- broken families and the shame that will haunt them for years.

As jaw-dropping as this all is, pray for these families. Public humiliation in the age of the internet is a very dangerous weapon, a knife in the back that never goes away. Thousands of people are affected and not one of those involved is the same person they were before this all broke.

People, it's simple...

Act justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with your God.

(Micah 6:8)


*"Later that same day"'s been reported that Hallmark has let Ms. Loughlin go , and have suspended production on When Calls The Heart.

Jobs, of those completely unaware of one person's choices, are either lost, or in jeopardy. How very sad for everyone, from so many differing perspectives.

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