The Law Is Terrifying

, , , , , | Learning | May 10, 2019

The current US story about parents buying their kids into colleges reminded me of my days, years ago, as a high school teacher in a small city. One of the students in my class was from a very well-off family and the younger brother of a boy who had been an excellent student. I and his other teachers expected the new member of the family would follow in the same tradition, but it turned out he was just coasting on his brother’s reputation.

One day in his senior year, his science teacher came to me and told me he’d caught the student dead to rights cheating on a test, and asked if I’d had similar problems. I’d had suspicions about some of his essays but nothing I could prove in the days before Internet plagiarism checkers. We weren’t sure what to do next, so we talked to his guidance counselor.

It turned out we weren’t the first to have suspicions. His foreign language teacher was positive he had gotten translations of the work to copy from, and the guidance counselor questioned his SAT scores. When he took the tests at our school his scores were mediocre, but when he took them at another school where he wasn’t known they went up by over 100 points each. The counselor was sure that the student had paid someone to take them for him.

We planned a meeting of all his teachers the next week to decide on a course of action, but on Monday the guidance counselor told us the student was now going to a private school 30 miles away. Not our problem.

The epilogue was that in the spring the young man was accepted into a very good college, not Ivy League but a small step down, later went to law school, and is now an extremely successful attorney with a lucrative practice. I leave it up to you – did we scare him straight or does this say something about lawyers?

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