A Case for Bribery

How appalling! I am absolutely shocked! Simply dumbfounded! How could anyone do something so wicked?

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I mean, can you imagine bribing an admission officer at a prestigious college or university? Who would ever dream of such a thing?

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How could such a thing happen when the motto of Harvard University is Veritas…and when the motto of Yale University is Lux et Veritas … and when the motto of Duke University is  Eruditio et Religio … and when the motto of the University of Pennsylvania  is Leges Sine moribus Vanae …and that of Princeton University is Dei Sub Numine Viget …and that of Brown is In Deo Speramus …and that of Columbia is In Lumine Tuo Videbimus Lumen …and that of Dartmouth is Vox Clamantis in Deserto… 

It’s almost as if no one can read these mottoes anymore!

Oh, wait a second, I forgot! We can’t read these mottoes anymore because, after all, who really cares about studying a dead language?

Where does studying a dead language get us? It certainly will not get us into the universities of which these are the mottoes because all of them have long since dropped proficiency in Latin as an entrance requirement!

Well, one might at least think that basic standards of objective morality and truth would still be assumed among the applicants to colleges and universities that were all founded on these standards…wouldn’t one?

Of course I am being facetious. We all know that although these colleges and universities were founded on lofty visions of objective truth and morality, somewhere the doctrine of pragmatism and utility supplanted the original vision.

Schools, colleges and universities were all founded on the assertion of Socrates when he said,

The unexamined life is not worth living.

He was providing us with a hint for why we should even send our children to school.

Education used to be about confronting the central questions of human life:

  • Who am I?
  • What is life?
  • What is man?
  • What is the cosmos?
  • What is happiness?
  • What is God?

These were the questions that served as the heart and soul of the educational project.

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The bedrock assumption upon which every college and university was founded was the assertion that there is such a thing as truth and we, as human beings, should strive with everything we have to know the truth!

Everybody agrees with that, right?

Not any more.

The truth is that education is now something that we all encourage our children to do in order to get ahead in life. Isn’t that right? 

When we exchanged the core liberal arts curriculum for the elective system were we not admitting that each should pursue what he or she found most useful?

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We say to our children,

It’s difficult to get a good lucrative career without a college degree.

It’s not so much a question of whether a student knows how to read Sacred Scripture in Greek or Latin, it’s not a question of whether this or that young man or woman has read Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth or Aristotle’s De Anima or Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Everyone appears to agree that although these are all fine and noble pursuits, they are nonetheless quite useless when it comes to getting ahead in life.

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It’s not about whether a young man or young lady has ever studied the Astronomy of Ptolemy or read Harvey’s work on the circulation of blood. Or whether a student has observed the insect world alongside of Jean Henri Fabre.

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What good, after all, is reading Aeschylus’ work Agammemnon? What good is reading Herodotus or Thucydides? Why read St. Thomas’ exposition on the Ten Commandments or the Seven Sacraments?

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Education is now about getting ahead in the world. It is not about coming to the truth. It is not about obtaining moral or intellectual virtue. According to all of these standard- setting institutions, there really is no such thing as truth. There really is no such thing as objective morality.

If goodness is simply a matter of what is expedient, why, then, is bribery for admission to a prestigious university not a legitimate option?

If the truth means anything these days it is this – that truth is determined by “what works.” Truth is what works. Good behavior is what is expedient.

Bribery works.

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Bribing this or that admissions officer or this or that athletic coach or paying someone to take the SAT or the ACT or the GRE or the LSAT (or the MCAT …is it even possible?) appears to have worked wonderfully for some.

Does the current educational establishment really have any intellectual platform upon which to object? Do the ivy league colleges and universities have an objective moral code from which they offer objections to cheating? What could they possibly say? Something like,

Well, as we all know, cheating on the SAT is an act of dishonesty, and any sort of dishonesty is against the Natural Law which…..oh, yeah…… is an obsolete invention of those superstitious philosophers who lived in the dark ages.

How can the modern educational establishment object to bribing a coach in order to gain preferential admissions treatment? To what objective standard of truth or goodness would they appeal?

What is there to say? I suppose Saint Paul might respond,

Be not deceived, God is not mocked.[8] For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting. [9] And in doing good, let us not fail. For in due time we shall reap, not failing.

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About marklangley

Academic Dean at The Lyceum (a school he founded in 2003, see theLyceum.org) Mark loves sacred music and Gregorian Chant and singing with his lovely wife, Stephanie, and their twelve children.
This entry was posted in aeschylus, catholic education, classical education, college, Socrates, truth for its own sake and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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