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The Arizona K12 Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Kathy Wiebke, offers her education insights in this monthly column.

 

When I was in high school, I don’t remember agonizing over my test scores or whether they would be good enough to get me into an elite college. I was a strong student, near the top of my class, and I also knew I would be attending one of Arizona’s public universities. Out-of-state tuition was not in the cards for me. This was something I had no qualms about. I knew that whenever I obtained my undergraduate degree from an Arizona university (which would end up being Arizona State), I would be prepared for whatever path life handed me.

More than 30 years later, that degree — in addition to a master’s from Northern Arizona University and a PhD from ASU — has served me well. When someone asks where I went to school, I proudly share that I’m a product of Arizona’s public school system, from kindergarten to post-graduate studies. For me, this is a point of pride.

Recently, the exposure of a massive cheating scandal has prompted me to reflect on my experiences, and how much seems to have changed since I was in high school. Like many, I was shocked, though not surprised, to learn of the lying and bribery that some parents used to get their kids into some of America’s top-tier schools. What surprised me was that these were some of the most privileged families in our country — and they thought it was necessary to cheat and game the system just to attend a certain kind of university. My guess is that the K-12 schools these children attended never held fundraisers for copy paper and toner.

What saddens me the most is that these parents employed deceitful means to take opportunities away from kids who were playing by the rules. What does this say about our priorities? What does this say to young people who are working hard to get ahead?

Now more than ever, it’s important that we all take stock of our own actions as educators and citizens. Are we behaving in a way that aligns with our personal value systems? We’re living in precarious times, and our children are watching.

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