Maybe that’s why an odd twist in Tuesday’s scandal stood out: Many of the students who benefited did not know about the fraud being committed for them. In several instances, their parents endeavored to keep the payoffs and cheating secret, arranging false tests so the children would never know that their scores had been deceitfully obtained. The kids were fakes, and ignorant of that fact.
It’s hard to blame people for mocking these oblivious teenagers, who thought they were walking on their own, but were in fact being carried. But it’s also worth considering how events would have appeared from their perspective. A high ACT score would have seemed like just another stroke of good fortune in a life full of it. The same goes for their acceptance into a selective college. In one tragicomic passage in the indictment, the scheme’s orchestrator describes how his student “clients” would sometimes come to him, surprised by their own high test scores, and suggest that maybe they’d do even better if they took the test again. They mistook the secret forces working on their behalf for their own natural talent. If you can’t see the hidden hand behind your success, what other explanations are there besides luck and ability?
In other words, from the students’ viewpoint, this is about as archetypal an instance of privilege as could be imagined. Advantage, after all, is rarely noticed by the advantaged.