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The college admissions scandal that unfurled this week has become a national obsession, and with good reason: Virtually everyone in this country needs to deal with college admissions at some point in their lives, whether for themselves or for their children, even if it’s just to look at the entire corrupt process and decline to participate in it.
This scandal has everything: wealthy, recognizable people in high positions using their power to get their oblivious children into universities where it would otherwise be a challenge for them to gain admittance. Plus, so many delicious details about how this scam went down. Here’s my recommended reading on the subject:
- Deadspin has a good summary of the more hilarious details.
- Slate posits that sports recruiting is the real college admissions scam. They’re right.
- The Atlantic explains why it’s significant that the parents chose to lie to their children about their actions, and how that perpetuates the feelings of privilege and the notion of “I earned everything I have” that has become so insidious in our culture.
- As usual, The Daily podcast has a great rundown of the major issues involved. One of the key insights that’s important to remember: Many of these children likely had a decent chance at getting into schools like USC, which are selective but not as much as the upper echelons of the Ivy League. What these parents wanted was a sure thing.
- The New York Times highlights the racial disparities inherent in the system. Said one student: “We can put in work from fifth grade to 12th grade, every single day, come in early, leave late, and it’s still not enough. What does it take? You work every day, they still find a way.”
- From August of 2018, Alia Wong at The Atlantic proposes a radical solution to fix elite-college admissions: Lotteries. This will never happen, but it’s interesting to contemplate.
- Masha Gessen writes for The New Yorker about how she would cover this event as a foreign correspondent, asking, “Why is such a clearly and unabashedly immoral system legal at all?”
What this scandal reminded me of is how unfair the process is to begin with, even without all the illegal bribes. Wealthy people can legally donate buildings to get their kids into school (for now). They can pay for the best test prep classes available. They help their children participate in sports, unavailable to others, that make it more likely they’ll be admitted.
Even with all these advantages, it still wasn’t enough. These parents wanted guarantees, no matter what the legal and ethical cost. Now, to paraphrase Francis X. Hummel, they are reaping the whirlwind.
Netflix canceled the critically beloved sitcom One Day at a Time this week (Disclosure: I currently work at Amazon and have a friend who was a regular on the show). Shows get canceled all the time, but what was remarkable about this one was the tone-deafness of Netflix’s tweet announcement and the ferocity of the backlash to it. A hashtag meant to try to save the show, #saveodaat, was trending worldwide within an hours.
In an era where the streaming giant is trying to cultivate an aura of “wokeness,” we got to see this week what happens when progressive politics meets business reality. Companies presenting themselves as guardians of diversity and representation are now treading on shifting ground.
At the Washington Post, Ric Sanchez explains how important the show was to him, and why Netflix’s tweet was so painful:
The Latin American experience is not monolithic, and the show was careful to illustrate that. There were Cuban in-jokes I was not familiar with, sure — but there were also story lines relatable to anyone who has been threatened by their abuela, shamed for their Spanish proficiency or walked a well-meaning peer through a microaggression.
These are the small moments in which “One Day at a Time” excelled. Whether you’re Latin American, a single parent, a veteran or part of a working-class family, it felt like the show could take an experience you thought was painfully specific to you and present it to a wider audience with charm and empathy. It helped you see yourself in a new context. […]
Netflix certainly is under no obligation to support a show that’s losing money. It’s a business decision, sure. But to cloak a business decision in the language of inclusiveness is tone-deaf at best and condescending at worst. They’re effectively telling us that we matter — we just don’t matter enough.
James Poniewozik has a similar piece at NYTimes, writing:
I am not a mind reader. Maybe the sentiment is sincere, maybe it’s spin, maybe a little of each. Either way, Netflix is trying to throw away its cake and get credit for having baked it.
Poniewozik also provides some good perspective on Netflix’s claim that “simply not enough people watched.”
Other links from the week:
- On the Write Along podcast, we discussed the two times when it’s okay to abandon a story you’re writing.
- The Seattle Times has a troubling investigation of the safety issues that have arisen with the Boeing 737 MAX. See also: Jon Ostrower’s piece at The Air Current.
- Kyle Buchanan analyzes the complicated credits of Avengers: Infinity War for Vulture.
- David Frum writes about the challenges decisions that the United States needs to make about its borders.