By Donna Deedy
People everywhere are talking about the celebrity college admission cheating scandal, since more than 50 people were indicted last week on felony charges. Television actress Lori Loughlin — voted mostly likely to succeed in Hauppauge High School class of ’82 — was among those arrested. The situation has turned tragic for her family and the other people involved. But, as people in education often say in the face of crisis, “Let’s make this a valuable teaching moment.”
Dennis O’Hara, superintendent for Hauppauge School District, agreed to respond to a few questions about the situation. Here’s his advice to the community:
What lessons can be learned about self-worth?
The greatest lesson here is that one’s self-worth is an inside job, meaning it comes from within. If one feels less than another, or inadequate, being handed something or gaining an advantage through cheating, is when feelings of inadequacy only increase. Low self-worth is erased only through hard work and perseverance. In life, we deserve what we earn — nothing more, nothing less.
I’d like to add that integrity is priceless. Once it is given up it cannot easily be regained. In this case, the integrity of these parents, and possibly more importantly, of their children is severely compromised — in a very public way. I hope they, and current high school students, realize it was not worth it.
What messages do you want high school seniors and families in the community at-large to take away from this situation?
I would like our students to understand there is a sense of pride and real peace in rejoicing in accomplishments that are earned. Life is about a sense of purpose, about finding a calling and striving to be the best one can be in that purpose.
It’s less important to measure oneself against others than it is to strive for one’s own dreams. I have four sons, and I often remind them life will be filled with challenges, but there is no glory in the accomplishment if it was without difficulty. In essence, having something handed to you does not build self-worth.
I often say it is not about where one is at the moment that matters, but where one is headed that counts. Each day be better than the day before and everything else will take care of itself.
Regarding college admissions, parents should not look for the best window sticker. Instead, they should help their children find the college or university that is the best fit. I can tell you from personal experience this approach relieves a great deal of stress for the parents and the child. In Hauppauge, we embrace this philosophy and are proud of the effort our students are putting forth.
One last thought regarding parenting and college admissions is that I would much prefer to be judged by the kind of men my sons have become than by the college they attended.