People Don’t Bribe College Officials to Help Their Kids. They Do It to Help Themselves.
Whenever a class war breaks out online, order is suspended, and instinct sets in. As the details of a college-admissions bribery scandal reached the public (dozens of wealthy families accused of buying fake grades, fake test scores and fake athletic achievements), the first impulse was to shame the parents; but the second was to go after their kids. People wanted to see how all those fraudulent academic investments were paying off. They wanted to look the brats in the eyes, to maul their social media feeds and kick around the scraps. Which led straight to the YouTube channel of Olivia Jade.
Olivia Jade Giannulli is the 19-year-old daughter of the actress Lori Loughlin (from “Full House”) and the clothing designer Mossimo Giannulli (the Target guy). According to a complaint filed by federal prosecutors, Olivia Jade’s parents styled her as the coxswain of a crew team, staged an action shot of her working an ergometer and paid off a University of Southern California senior associate athletic director to summon an offer of admission.
奥莉维亚・杰德・贾恩鲁里(Olivia Jade Giannulli)19岁，她的双亲是《欢乐满屋》(Full House)中的演员罗莉・洛夫林(Lori Loughlin)和服装设计师莫辛莫・贾恩鲁里（Mossimo Giannulli，就是Target里那个）。根据联邦检察官提交的一份起诉书，奥莉维亚・杰德的父母把她包装成赛艇队的舵手，给她摆拍了一张在划船机上运动的照片，并贿赂南加州大学(University of Southern California)的一名高级体育副主管，换取录取通知书。
In real life, Olivia Jade is devoted to a different extracurricular activity: beauty influencing. Critics seized on a video she uploaded last year, slicing out a 14-second clip to set loose on Twitter. In it, Olivia Jade sits on the floor of a bedroom with the sparse aesthetic of an Airbnb, her hair in an artfully messy bun, a wishbone pendant nestled against her tanned chest. Her young face is contoured and highlighted to cartoonish perfection, like the human version of some adorable Disney forest creature. She reads a fan’s question about college plans from her phone. “I don’t know how much of school I’m going to attend, but I’m going to go in and talk to my deans and everyone and hope that I can try and balance it all,” she responds. “I do want the experience of game days, partying. ... ” She pauses, searching for a third reason to enroll in a university. Instead she blinks and says, “I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”
‘I don’t know how much of school I’m going to attend.’
This clip is not a flattering discovery for someone whose family has just been accused of rigging her admission, and outsiders took it as reassurance that Olivia Jade really was the vapid waste of education they already assumed her to be. But part of the appeal of the teenage YouTuber is that she is not, like a traditional role model, required to admonish her viewers to stay in school. She is meant to feel as if she could be one of them, and so she is free to voice noncontroversial disaffected-teen sentiments, such as: School sucks. When Olivia Jade says that she doesn’t care about school, her video cuts and zooms in on her face ― YouTube’s standard visual grammar for emphasizing an arch joke, equal parts self-deprecating and self-satisfied.
This is a young woman who knows that academics are not her strong suit. But she is clearly skilled at her after-school job, and it’s far more practical than coxswaining: Soon after filming the clip, she leveraged her online following into a branded makeup palette at Sephora. In the wake of the scandal, detractors have dug up many of her anti-academic tweets (“It’s so hard to try in school when you don’t care about anything you’re learning”). But threaded between them has been plenty of enthusiasm and commitment for her job: “Excited to film tomorrow & get back to workkkk work work work.”
They are heaping money on their progeny in an attempt to correct for how rich they are.
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.
我无从知晓贾恩鲁里一家对奥莉维亚・杰德的未来有过些什么讨论，但坦白讲：像她这样的人上名牌大学，除了满足长辈，还有什么重要的呢？“基本上我父母想让我去，因为他俩都没上过大学，”她对另一位YouTube网红说。从这些欺诈指控中浮出的一些故事上，你能感觉到某种奇怪的代际阶级冲突。其中没被宠溺大的富人（拉芙林的父亲是电话公司的一名工头）如今正竭力把中产阶级的价值观（接受良好的教育很重要）施加到超级富有的孩子身上，而他们几乎看不到那对他们有何用处。当《纽约邮报》(New York Post)到达丑闻中被控的某饮料巨头在纽约第五大道的家中时，一个儿子现身为他父母辩护，他一边抽着一根巨大的大麻烟卷，一边还趁机宣传了他的说唱专辑。许多孩子竞争精英大学的位置，是为进入更高的社会阶级，但这些家长中的一部分人无疑是在寻求相反的效果――一个能表明他们的子女不仅仅是在通过培育名利事业继承他们财产的学位。他们在子女身上花钱，是为了衬得起他们的富有身份。
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. They did not wind up raising enviable, academically extraordinary children, but they’ve fudged the results so they can drop “U.S.C.” in conversations instead of “A.S.U.” Some went to comical lengths to hide these interventions from their children, while others, including Olivia’s parents, supposedly involved the kids, letting them know the exact distance between what they were getting and what they deserved. When these parents celebrated their success, you might imagine they were reacting not with pride but with relief: They had managed to prevent their kids from messing up the paths they had planned for them.
They had also helped convince the rest of us that their kids really were successful. We still like to picture our higher-education system as the linchpin of a meritocracy, like a public utility that sorts the accomplished from the rest. We instinctively conflate elite schooling with worth. The idea of unqualified kids getting into Stanford or Georgetown may rankle us, but this scandal should also call into question the outsize reputations of such schools. They exist partly through a bargain in which wealthy elites commingle with the highest-achieving students of the lower and middle classes. The wealthy launder their privilege by allowing select others to earn their way into its orbit. And the intelligence and success of hardworking peers makes a wealthy wastrel seem qualified by association: Maybe he graduated with straight C’s, a drinking problem and an unearned job at the family business, but he went to Yale ― isn’t that where smart people go?
Right before the video clip that was isolated for optimum Twitter shaming, Olivia Jade says something else revealing: She is worried that other kids at school are going to take advantage of her. “That’s already my big fear of meeting people at my college ― that they are just going to use me,” she says. She seems to see the value of a good education, in exactly the way so many parents see it: as a transaction.