From John Ray's shorter notes

January 08, 2019

Black privilege

The Leftist article excerpted below gives a good account of an educational fraud but draws perverse lessons from it. 

When a small black school churned out fraudulent credentials and documentation for their students, even Ivy league institutions fell for it and admitted the students concerned.

How come?  The students were black and under the manic "all men are equal" doctrine that consumes the Left, the universities had a desperate need for black faces on campus.  So they turned a blind eye to any shortcomings in the student or his documentation.  Black privilege was at work.  You cannot challenge black claims and you must not suspect any intellectual deficit in a black. So the misrepresented blacks were simply waved through on the color of their skin.

The interesting question, therefore, is did the students come unstuck in doing university courses for which they were not prepared?  One would expect so but once again black privilege is at work. Incompetent black students can also be waved through university courses.  And there is no doubt that that was done or the scam  would have come unstuck in one year

The Leftist galoot below thinks that the scam reveals the wrongness of university selection criteria.  What it does reveal is that no system is proof against Leftist fraud and folly

Until two weeks ago, T. M. Landry College Preparatory School was the most enigmatic school in America. Small and with minimal resources, this private school was known for one thing: placing an extraordinary number of black, low-income students in America’s most elite colleges and universities. Almost everything else about it was mysterious.

The school’s founders and namesakes, the married couple Tracey and Michael Landry, had promoted it via a series of viral videos. In each of the videos, a young student, usually black, waits in suspense, surrounded by classmates, to find out if he or she has been admitted to a top college—Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale, among others. Invariably, the student gets a happy answer, and the entire room erupts in raucous celebration.

T. M. Landry is in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, a high-poverty town of fewer than 10,000. The school’s graduates are overwhelmingly black, poor, or both—a socioeconomic segment that, due to pervasive discrimination, is notoriously underrepresented in higher ed. Statistically speaking, when a poor black student is admitted to a Harvard or a Yale, it’s a minor miracle. The odds of an institution sending graduate after graduate to the Ivy League and similar schools are infinitesimal. Watching T. M. Landry’s viral videos was akin to watching lightning strike the same spot not twice, but over and over again. Had the Landrys cracked the educational code?

At the end of November, in a blockbuster story, The New York Times solved part of the puzzle. The Landrys’ school seems to have been a fraud all along—faking transcripts, forcing students to lie on college applications, and staging rehearsed lessons for curious media and other visitors. According to the Times, an atmosphere of abuse and submission helped maintain the deception, with Michael Landry lording over his flock of children like a tyrant. In the Times story, Landry admitted to helping children with college applications while denying any fraud. The school did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Still, a mystery remains. Even taking the alleged fakery into account, how did T. M. Landry seem to fool so many of America’s most prestigious universities for years?

The key to the alleged T. M. Landry scam can’t be the quality of the deception, because it was far from airtight. If anything, the story the school told about itself should have sparked immediate skepticism.

This isn’t hindsight speaking; I know from experience. I first encountered the school's viral videos last spring, and as a researcher on race and education, I felt compelled to learn more. What I found immediately raised my suspicions. Outside the videos themselves, the school offered little coherent explanation of how its students managed to win the collegiate lottery so often.

Many aspects of the school were unorthodox. Tuition was modest for a private school, and paid monthly, with students seemingly able to start and stop at any time from kindergarten to 12th grade in an unusual rolling-admissions format. While the Landrys were reliably vague about their instructional methods, the hints they dropped —no homework, no textbooks, and minimal parental involvement—didn’t conform with any successful teaching model I’d ever heard of. Nor did the couple have any prior teaching experience to suggest they should be capable of working educational wonders. Press coverage openly discussed T. M. Landry's apparent dearth of courses, classrooms, and structured teaching—even while celebrating students’ sophisticated subject-matter specialties and high GPAs. Certain inconsistencies, such as how a school without defined courses could have GPAs, were never explained.

Frankly, none of the pieces fit together. Still, whatever T. M. Landry was up to, the colleges and universities were fine with it, and presumably the admissions officers were doing their due diligence.

Except it now appears they didn’t.

American higher education is a hierarchy, and the schools at the top wield vast influence, both in academia and in the wider world. Whether they admit it or not, universities like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, and Columbia are gatekeepers for the social, political, and economic elite. The T. M. Landry revelations should constitute an extraordinary crisis for these schools. They challenge these institutions’ role as gatekeepers—and perhaps even the need for the hierarchy itself.

How could T. M. Landry allegedly deceive so many? The colleges and universities that admitted the school’s grads aren’t saying publicly. When reached for this story, a number of top-tier institutions only provided brief statements expressing their concern about the situation. In a typical response, Yale stated that it “takes all allegations of fraudulent application materials seriously,” and “when applicable … pursues all cases where potentially misrepresentative application information is brought to our attention.” Princeton emphasized that it was “concerned for the affected students and their families,” and “remain[ed] committed to attracting and supporting talented students, including students from groups that have been underrepresented in higher education.”

Admirably, Wellesley College stated its specific and unequivocal support for its Landry graduates, describing them as “thriving and engaged members of the community.” However, none of the institutions contacted—which also included Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, Brown, Dartmouth, Wesleyan, and Syracuse—would offer any public explanation for how they might have gotten tricked in the first place.

But at least in general terms, it’s possible to sketch out the source of the breakdown. Like a lot of scams, the alleged T. M. Landry admissions ploy wasn’t convincing because it was hard to detect, but because it offered something that a lot of people wanted to believe. Their viral videos told a story of black children magically beating the odds, drawing millions of viewers. The school played into this narrative, appending hashtags like “#blackexcellence” and “#blacksuccess” to its videos. The faked transcripts told the same story, one that higher education found irresistible.

When it comes to admitting students from underprivileged backgrounds, colleges and universities are facing cross-cutting currents. To start with, most highly selective schools remain committed to promoting racially and economically diverse student bodies. This commitment is sincere, at least to the extent that, all else equal, these institutions would be delighted to admit lower-income students of color who have overcome great hardships.

But this is where the T. M. Landry accusations begin to look truly destabilizing, because now its miracles appear to be fictions. Many of its graduates were, by all accounts, hard-working and dedicated, but otherwise merely mortal. And yet, they did not implode the moment they breathed the rarified air of the Ivy League. Some struggled or dropped out, but a number of Landry students—particularly those who had spent more time in traditional schools—simply continued to advance.


Go to John Ray's Main academic menu
Go to Menu of longer writings
Go to John Ray's basic home page
Go to John Ray's pictorial Home Page
Go to Selected pictures from John Ray's blogs