In 2019, news broke of “Operation Varsity Blues,” a Justice Department investigation that uncovered how wealthy families used the services of Rick Singer exploit weaknesses in the college admissions process to get your children into prestigious universities and colleges. While it was nice to revel in a group of wealthy parents who were forced to go on delinquent walks, Chris smithdocumentary of Operation Varsity Blues He wisely goes beyond the rich doing what the rich do – using their wealth to cheat the system and acquire more status symbols – to asking more difficult questions about how this system works in the first place. The use of dramatizations adds good dramatic weight to the proceedings, but the film’s greatest strength comes from its interviews with talking heads pointing out how Singer was able to succeed for so long and the system that allowed him to thrive. Rick Singer clearly knew how to exploit the college admissions system, but Operation Varsity Blues shows that the college admissions system had no trouble creating a person like Rick Singer.

Like even Operation Varsity Blues You will admit, Singer himself is a bit encrypted. He was previously a basketball coach with a similar temperament to Bobby Knight, and when he was fired from his high school program, he decided that he would become a different kind of coach, one who worked in the burgeoning field of college counseling. From there, Singer created what he considered a “side door” where if the “front door” enters by merit and the “back door” is a million dollar donation, then the “side door” was the Singer’s system of essentially bribing the athletic department administrators and coaches to leave open spots for bogus athletes. For example, if a prestigious school has a water polo program, Singer would create a fake resume for a boy, fold it to look like a water polo champion, and then combine it with a major donation to a less prominent college program like water. . polo, the student would basically be admitted even before applying. Singer also had plans to manipulate the SAT and ACT tests when it was necessary to falsify those tests.

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Matthew Modine in Operation Varsity Blues

Image via Netflix

It’s tempting to refer to Singer as the “mastermind” of this scam, but Smith wisely never gives him the satisfaction of being particularly brilliant. Instead, Singer simply took two weaknesses: narcissistic and wealthy parents who needed to take their children to prestigious schools with an admission guarantee, and a completely broken admissions system by treating colleges as a commodity rather than an institute of learning. , and combined them to create his business. Things are always easier for the rich than the rest of us, so why should college admissions be any different?

Smith is able to counter the lack of surprise by turning the criminal investigation into a true crime thriller. Use transcripts of actual wiretaps and then select actors to recite with Matthew modine like Singer. This brings us closer to the machinations of the scam and at the same time, we glimpse the incredible wealth in its totally unprotected moments. These are conversations they actually had, and there is something chilling about the mundane they deal with such corrupt behavior. They do not struggle with the morality of taking a place away from a more deserving student, or having their money allow them a meritless path. There are only two concerns that seem to be consistently: “Will we get caught?” and “How can I prevent my child from finding out that he is getting something that he did not earn?”

And yet, despite all the dramatizations, my anger wasn’t really reserved for these parents. I don’t expect people who get grotesquely rich to act with honor because normally there isn’t much honor in getting grotesquely rich. My anger is more reserved for where the talking heads of the film intervene in pointing out the myriad flaws in our college admissions system. We have a country full of excellent colleges and universities, but only a few are considered “prestigious” simply because US World News & Report considers them as such. And yet we have a college system that claims that if you work hard, get amazing grades, take enough AP classes, score high enough on your SAT or ACT, and also rack up extracurricular activities, you could get into a “prestigious” school. .

An ACT test in Operation Varsity Blues

Image via Netflix

The main connection that Smith seems to miss is how wealth and these schools are intertwined, not because he buys tickets to them, but because they perpetuate a rich and powerful elite. It is absolutely true that you can get an excellent education in countless schools and furthermore, it could be said that you could get a better education than what these prestigious schools claim to offer. But no one is trying to get into these schools to get an education. A talking head in Operation Varsity Blues argues that an elite school is an extension of wealthy parents’ need for status symbols, and perhaps that’s part of it. But the film sidesteps the fact that these “elite” institutions are the corridors of power. It is where the rich and powerful congregate. In a world where who you know is often more important than what you know, there can be nothing more important than making sure your child can start networking with the most powerful people of tomorrow.

When you see ineffective justice being dispensed, this lust for dynastic power makes even more sense. Sure, we could see these wealthy parents jogging in front of cable news cameras, but of those who pleaded guilty, no one received more than a year in prison. They took on a system that was already fundamentally unfair and, dissatisfied with their dominant position, worked to tilt the odds even further in their favor. And ultimately, what we received was the illusion of justice for the people who created the illusion of merit. To Smith’s credit, Operation Varsity Blues He is not fooled by this illusion, and points out how none of these universities had to return the “donations” (ie, the bribes) they received from Singer. Operation Varsity Blues shows us that while Rick Singer was in a hurry, prestigious schools continue to run a scam.

Grade: B +


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