Monday, 8 April 2019


I’ve been intrigued by the story in America about rich parents paying large sums of money to get their children into the top Universities. The scale of the scam is extraordinary. William Singer’s business, “The Edge College & Career Network”, has pleaded guilty to masterminding the scheme helping children of wealthy people get into universities through bribing college athletic coaches, having other people take admission tests for the applicants and hiring people to correct students' incorrect answers on those tests.

He faces up to 20 years in gaol. His “clients” have invested over $25 million with him to get their children into these universities. Strategies have included applying for sports scholarships like swimming, though they couldn’t swim. There are 50 rich and famous parents in the investigation (see above) the FBI are pursuing. The case is the largest of its kind to be prosecuted by the US Justice Department. 

How far would you go to get an unfair advantage for your children? Where does white become grey and when is it clearly black? Does spending £33,000 a year on sending your child to boarding school count as bending the rules? Obviously we’ve decided not although this is about the same as the gross average annual earning of those in full time work.

More interestingly government pays up to £6,000 a year per pupil in state schools which compares with £17,000 it costs for day pupils in private education.  Is this fair when the only reason such disparity exists is because of parental wealth? It’s a thorny issue and in a free democracy social engineering is something we rightly try to avoid. But and it’s a big but  …. Shouldn’t we be trying to make top quality education available to all; shouldn’t we be turning flickering flames of talent into great flames? That was what grammar schools were supposed to be all about.

The reason I care so much about inequality at the scale we see it, is that it’s such bad business for the country and I care about that. As does Janice Turner, Times journalist, who said this on Saturday:
I don’t care about Brexit. I fear for our country”.

For “Brexit” read Trump, Macron or Erdogan in America, France and Turkey. 

The fears we have relate to the reasons these people have been elected.  When deep rooted issues exist the equivalent of Japanese Knotweed flourishes. This ghastly plant is listed by the World Conservation Union as one of the world's worst invasive species.

Actually, provided we get rid of the knotweed, I don’t fear for our countries because I think we are pretty resourceful and resilient people. We need to watch it though. Any suspicion of complacency should be over after the past three years and we all need to remember that how we vote carries more of a punch than we thought.

By the way there are more of us than them…

So cheer up and look out for the knotweed.


Michael in the UK said...

Hello Richard,

As always I enjoyed your weekly thoughts, all the more so as I am on holiday with the family in one of the most lovely places in the UK, the Îles of Scilly.
I was very surprised to see you put Macron in the same category as Brexit and Trump. Please can you explain or elaborate? I think in France the Gilet Jaunes popular movement is a reflection of the rising anger at inequality, globalisation, job insecurity and the backlash from marginalised/forgotten by politicians, parts of the country. In other words, the same/similar forces that led to the EU referendum leave vote, and Trump’s victory in the US. maybe that is what you meant?
Best wishes. Michael.

Richard Hall said...

That’s precisely what I meant. It was a lazy piece of writing to allow misinterpretation. In general I was reflecting on the reality virtually every country currently faces. Who would have expected the Netherlands to be in a pickle too?

Michael in the UK said...

Thanks for taking the time to reply Richard, it’s good to read that, and best wishes. I look forward to your next book.