I don't remember anyone at Upper Darby High School bragging about "boofing."
I don't remember kids having access to enough money, cars, lawyers, and booze to turn summers into an eternal bar crawl with few to zero consequences.
I remember instead a modest suburban Philadelphia public school in the 1980s where kids were learning that life was no-nonsense. What I did not know was that kids in upper-crust suburbs were living by another set of life rules entirely.
I can thank Brett Kavanaugh for that teaching moment.
While Kavanaugh lifted weights, and partied in suburban Washington, we at UDHS were working at laundromats, Dairy Queen, the Springfield Mall. Luckier ones were at Shore houses — but working as waitresses to pay the rent. Of the 2,400 kids at my school, not one, I can assure you, was pegged, by virtue of our parents' wealth or connections, as destined to run this country, its corporations, its courts.
And that's too bad. Because more than a few members of this prep-school crowd, from what I'm hearing even here in Philadelphia, are a danger to our democracy.
The Kavanaugh Supreme Court debacle is an outrage for many reasons. But the ribald excess and lawbreaking by upper-crust kids like him at Georgetown Prep, the zero consequences for bad actions, have gnawed on me. I know this same thing is going on in the Lower Merions, Radnors, Haddonfields, too.
What makes it a problem is that teenagers in these places are being groomed, through their connections, to assume powerful positions in adulthood.
"There are drug problems at every single school on the Main Line," said a dad I've known for some time now, a financial-industry guy. He asked to speak anonymously. No wonder. It's an open secret in some of these towns that power-player parents file lawsuits to keep the tawdry transgressions of their kids under wraps.
"The richer the school," he told me, "the more likely you're going to have party drugs."
This dad is 52. He coaches sports. He has kids still in or just out of some of the Main Line's most prestigious schools. He partied his butt off as an affluent kid a generation ago. He's a year younger than Kavanaugh, he tells me. He knows Kavanaugh's type, he says. He used to party with guys like that south of Baltimore.
He says parents today who got away with murder themselves as entitled teens are doing the same — and worse — for their own kids today.
Remember how, in 2007, a group of kids in upper-income Haddonfield trashed a house? They caused $18,000 in damage. Someone defecated on a Steinway grand piano; someone ejaculated onto stuffed animals; a urine-filled Super Soaker was used on upholstered furniture.
This is one of New Jersey's most affluent school districts.
One parent had the gall, as my former colleague Monica Yant Kinney reported at the time, to gripe before a judge that her guilty son "had 'suffered' from 'gossip and lies.' "
How about 2014 in Montgomery County? Prosecutors there busted a Main Line prep-school drug ring. Dealers included teens from Lower Merion, Conestoga, Harriton, and Radnor High Schools, as well as the Haverford School.
Testing boundaries and breaking rules is not a character killer in high school. We know there are good kids in the mix along with the bad. But we are talking about toxic behavior among a sliver of elite kids who, because our economy is hollowing out the middle class, increasingly are the odds-on favorites to be America's leaders and policymakers.
If they learn in high school and college that their tribe can break rules with no consequences, won't they be tempted to view the world at large through a similar lens as adults? It stands to reason that they would strive to protect their tribe while punishing others. That is, after all, how the rules work, right?
Former Radnor Police Superintendent Bill Colarulo formed a drug unit in the affluent township seven years ago. He made sure that two cops on the team could pass as high schoolers. He couldn't believe what crawled out of the woodwork.
"They were so busy handling narcotics arrests that we had to expand the unit," he said. "I was amazed."
They were busting mostly young people.