We recently learned that all kinds of wealthy folks, including many celebrities, have been bribing officials at institutions of higher learning to let their children into elite colleges and/or onto sports teams when they might not have the qualifications.

Apparently, law enforcement has been investigating this for quite some time and finally came up with enough to bring indictments.

It’s definitely one for the “when you think you’ve heard it all” category.

Or for me, it may be more like I’m so naïve, I would have never thought this would be going on.

It’s helicopter parenting of an entirely different – and unbelievable – kind.

But the gig is up, and a whole passel of folks will be going to prison or paying hefty fines or both. The culpability is on both sides – the parents who made the payments and school officials who accepted them. There’s even a middle man who helped facilitate the deals.

Again, it’s appalling, especially when so many rich celebs love to get on the bandwagon of certain causes and tell us all how to live, or take advantage of a forum they have at an awards show to self-righteously scold us about something.

I don’t know that any of the ones caught in this scandal are among them, but you know what I’m talking about. A topic for another day.

The students who were the beneficiaries of their parents’ actions appear to have been oblivious, similar to stories of star high school athletes whose parents shop them to colleges in violation of NCAA rules. Heisman Trophy Winner Cam Newton, now the quarterback of the Charlotte Panthers, always maintained he knew nothing about his father taking money for Cam’s athletic talent when he was in college.

But whether they knew or didn’t know, what kind of effect will it have on them? Will they even know how to function without their parents scheming behind the scenes?

It’s easy for me to shake my head at this news, but it has caused me to think back at my own child-rearing days, and even my own childhood.

I never considered making a bribe to give one of my children a leg up, and I seriously doubt there were parents around here doing that. But what about some of the sports teams where overly enthusiastic parents never missed a practice and always ran the booster clubs? Who knows if their kids got special treatment, unwittingly or blatant?

And on another level, what about the homework assignments in which I might have been a little too helpful? When it was late at night and everyone just wanted to go to bed, did I sometimes insert myself more than I should have to help speed things along?

Probably, and there are many of you who, if you’re honest, would say the same.

My older brother always struggled with school and I can remember my mother helping him write papers that teachers probably knew did not originate with him.

It all – even the bribes made in the college admissions dust-up — comes from a good place, I suppose, which is the desire for the very best for our children. Many of us, as imperfect humans, probably went a little too far a time or two, but probably didn’t cross a line where long-term harm was done.

(If my children are reading and disagree, I’ll go halves on therapy).

This recent revelation about over-zealous (to say the least) parents can serve as a lesson for all.

One of the best TV dads of all time was Sherriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, who was raising his son Opie as a single dad. (Yes, I know Aunt Bea lived with them, but her main role was being the homemaker, and she left the heavy lifting of child-rearing to Andy. Go watch a few old episodes if you don’t believe me).

Andy always seemed to know the right combination of grace and discipline. He was also big on teaching Opie to “stand on his own two legs,” (a direct quote from at least one of the episodes) even when it was painful for both of them.

For those parents who went way too far and will now face the consequences, maybe it’s not too late for both them and their offspring to learn something from all of this.

A few half-hour sessions watching Andy might be a good place to start.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at

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