Grado de dificultad: 3 (Por el idioma)

Columnista: Roberto

An efficient and “eye-opening” documentary may not be sufficient to solve a long existing issue.

Let’s start with a Netflix documentary

Talking about “Operation Varsity Blues”, again

Netflix, among many others, produced a documentary (other will make a movie) about the “Operation Varsity Blues”.

Video available on the YouTube channel of Netflix

The documentary is fancy and well-constructed. However, Matthew Modine may be a little too charismatic to impersonate a rather pathetic real-life man.

But that is OK, it works… On a superficial level, the one where emotional response is asked for.

There are other levels, deeper than the superficial one, where things are less obvious to admit.

I took several notes while watching the documentary, when I spotted things that were valuable to me.

For example, there is this patchwork of reactions at the beginning of the documentary:

  • Young people scream of joy when they learn that they are admitted to an elite institution.
  • On the other end, others seem distressed for being rejected.

As an old man, I watched both reactions with sadness. I have learned how wrong all of them are about themselves and about the institutions they believe in.

Key word: “Prestige”

According to French Wikipedia

A key word that sums up what the candidates are experiencing is “Prestige”. As wisely reminded by someone during the Netflix documentary, it is a french word.

Let’s see how French people define it.

French Wikipedia says:

Le prestige désigne le fait d’imposer le respect, d’inspirer l’admiration, de séduire. Dans les spectacles, le prestige est aussi l’illusion produite par magie ; artifice diabolique.

Which can be translated by:

Prestige refers to imposing respect, inspiring admiration, seducing. In shows, prestige is also the illusion produced by magic; diabolical artifice.

It is written in careful terms, but yes, it says “diabolical artifice”.

A bluntly clearer sense

But let us not believe an only source, a distinct one is even bluntly clearer:

A l’origine, le prestige était une illusion créée par la sorcellerie ou la magie. Le sens du terme s’est étendu pour qualifier le fait de produire une forte impression, d’imposer le respect, de bénéficier d’une autorité naturelle.

Synonymes : charme, importance, influence, réputation, renom, attrait, crédit


Originally, prestige was an illusion created by witchcraft or magic. The meaning of the term has expanded to describe the fact of producing a strong impression, of imposing respect, of benefiting from a natural authority.

Synonyms: charm, importance, influence, reputation, fame, attractiveness, credit

Prestige education is not about education

Prestidigitation, illusion, prestige

But you already knew this word, it’s the one you find in “prestidigitation”. It means “quick fingers trick”, the important word being “quick” (“preste”, in french).

I would simply say that prestige is an illusion, it has always been. Illusion is what lures young people… As well as older people who chose to live in the illusion.

There is this statement, during the same documentary:

“Over the last three or four decades, higher education has become increasingly a commodity. Something that you purchase. A product.

It’s a goal in and of itself, rather than the goal being to get an education”.

First of all, I got my primary education between the 60’s and the 70’s. I clearly remember that the illusion was already there, so “last 4 decades” doesn’t even add up.

Then, do people even realize what it means?

Our civilization, that pretends to praise education so much, has been lying to itself all along.

Making people fight against each other is the base of an ancient and deadly principle: “Divide to reign”.

This principle was not discovered by the “Operation Varsity Blues”, it simply makes people think a bit more now.

Education is the opposite of exclusion

As I said, I took several notes, watching the Netflix documentary. I thought they were worth an article.

I now realize that I was underestimating the wideness of the subject of education. It is worth several books.

A scandal and a well-crafted documentary may be an “eye-opener”. Actually, this is in the title of an analysis by the “Daily Beast”:

Netflix’s College Admissions Scandal Doc ‘Operation Varsity Blues’ Is an Eye-Opener

It won’t however be useful if you have got a “tunnel vision”.

A last quote from the documentary is:

“Ultimately, where you do go to school has little or no effect on what will happen to you in the future”.

It is right on the “Where”, the “How” definitely has an effect, though.

TMN already published articles on this very news:

Repeating the same things we already wrote would be boring.

We always try not to be boring with the themes we choose, nor exclusive. Education should never be boring (AKA heavily academic).

Just saying… In the end, we are no Harvard, Stanford or any deceptive prestigious entity. We just want to talk about interesting things.

Isn’t it what learning is about?

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