I can’t know what discussions the Giannulli family may have had about Olivia Jade’s future, but honestly: How important is it for a person like her to attend a fancy university, other than to satisfy her elders? “Mostly my parents wanted me to go because both of them didn’t go to college,” she told another YouTuber. You sense, in some of the stories to emerge from these fraud charges, an odd form of intergenerational class conflict, in which wealthy people who did not grow up pampered (Loughlin is the child of a telephone-company foreman) are now trying to impose middle-class values (a good education is important) on superrich kids who see little use for them. When The New York Post approached the Fifth Avenue home of a beverage magnate charged in the scandal, a son emerged to defend his parents while smoking an enormous blunt and plugging his rap album. Many kids compete for elite college slots in an attempt to gain access to a higher social class, but some of these parents are surely seeking the opposite effect — a degree that suggests their kids are not simply coasting on their inheritance while cultivating vanity careers. They are heaping money on their progeny in an attempt to correct for how rich they are.
If an elite school is a branding exercise, that brand is perhaps more valuable to rich parents than to rich kids. An underperforming, school-averse teenager is often content to attend a low-pressure state school with good parties; it’s his parents who are desperate to prevent this. More than faking their kids’ athletic or test-taking prowess, these parents have faked their own parenting.