Cash Can Get Things Done, Even In Education

Indian Police Service officer Arun Bothra recently posted a picture of several currency notes, including ₹100, ₹200, and ₹500, on the social media network X, formerly known as Twitter.   

”Pic sent by a teacher,” he wrote. “These notes were kept inside answer sheets of a board exam by students with a request to give them passing marks. Tells a lot about our students, teachers, and the entire educational system.” 

Yes, it says a lot about the educational system. If these students were better educated, they’d realize that ₹500 is not enough to bribe a teacher. You’d need to offer at least ₹5,000. 

As you can imagine, Bothra’s post went viral and drew numerous comments, including some from teachers.  

“This has happened to me at least thrice during my paper correction days! To colleagues too even 20 years ago,” one teacher wrote. “The money is usually accompanied by a sad story narration instead of answers to exam questions. Needless to say, such students usually fail.” 

I love the honesty in this response, perfectly captured in the word “usually.” 

Principal: “As part of your personal code of ethics, do you refuse to accept bribes from students?” 

Teacher: “Usually.” 

Principal: “What do you mean ‘usually’?” 

Teacher: “Almost always.” 

Principal: “What does ‘almost’ mean? How many times have you accepted a bribe?” 

Teacher: “Fewer times than you have.” 

I think we can all agree that any student who attempts to bribe a teacher should get an automatic ‘F.’ But perhaps we shouldn’t make assumptions. 

Principal: “Did your son attempt to bribe his teacher with ₹500?” 

Parent: “How dare you suggest my son was trying to bribe his teacher. He would never do that. He was merely giving his favorite teacher a tip.” 

Principal: “A tip?” 

Parent: “Yes, everybody is being tipped these days, so why not teachers? They’re underpaid and overworked.” 

Another commenter on Bothra’s post alluded to the pervasiveness of corruption in India, suggesting that the students “know that ‘cash’ can get things done in our country and they are unfortunately not entirely wrong.” 

Cash can also determine whether a student gains admission to a college or university. 

Admissions officer: “As you know, Mr. Kumar, this is a very prestigious medical college. What kind of donation are you willing to make to ensure that your son gets admission?” 

Kumar: “Any type of donation — you name it. I will even donate one of my kidneys. You can use it for research.” 

Admissions officer: “Only one kidney? What about your wife?” 

Kumar: “You can have my wife, too. As long as my son becomes a doctor, I will be happy.” 

Making donations to gain admission to government-run institutions is considered illegal, but anything goes at private institutions. That’s also the case in America, where “cash can get things done” for students who want to attend prestigious institutions. 

They can’t submit cash with their answer sheets, but they can hire an admissions consultant like William “Rick” Singer. In the scheme known as Operation Varsity Blues, dozens of wealthy parents paid Singer lavishly to get their children into elite institutions. Singer not only helped some students cheat on standardized tests, he also bribed university coaches and administrators. He is now spending 3.5 years in a not-so-elite institution: Federal Prison. 

But wealthy parents don’t have to resort to illegal methods of securing admission. There are plenty of legal ways to do so. Hiring an admission consultant (not named Rick Singer) is one of the first steps. Admission consultants can help students prepare for standardized tests and write college admission essays. They can advise students on the ideal blend of academic courses and extracurricular activities to enhance their college applications.  

Consultant: “Are you taking any AP courses this semester?” 

Student: “Yes, I’ve signed up for two: acrylic painting and aerial photography. Next semester, I’m taking advanced pickleball.” 

If a student’s parents are ultra-wealthy, the best way to ensure admission is to make a hefty donation to the university. That’s how Jared Kushner, son-in-law of Donald Trump, got into Harvard University, according to Daniel Golden, author of the book “The Price of Admission.” Jared’s father, Charles Kushner, pledged $2.5 million to Harvard. 

Jared: “Dad, great news! Harvard has accepted me!”  

Charles: “We did it, son! I mean, you did it, son!” 

Jared: “I didn’t think my grades were good enough.” 

Charles: “Neither did I, son. Neither did I.” 

Image courtesy of The pic that Arun Bothra shared.

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