Lessons from TM Landry


I wrote an editorial in September about how we, as students, should value KO as more than a mere stepping stone on the way to college.

In the wake of the New York Times’ recent investigative piece on the TM Landry College Preparatory School in Louisiana, I thought it would be appropriate and fitting to revisit the subject.

This editorial will serve as “part two” to the one from a few months back.

For those of you aren’t familiar with the recently-unearthed malevolence of the TM Landry school, I encourage you to the read the New York Times article that originally broke the story for a thorough understanding.

In their Nov. 30 article entitled, “Louisiana School Made Headlines for Sending Black Kids to Elite Colleges. Here’s the Reality,” Erica L.Green and Katie Benner detailed TM Landry’s numerous abuses.

Michael Landry and his wife run the small private school in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana that primarily attracts young black students from the surrounding areas.

The school gained some national fame by virtue of the virality of its students’ Ivy League acceptance videos.

However, in the vast majority of instances, these acceptances were predicated on fabrication on the part of Michael Landry.

Mr. Landry habitually fabricated students’ transcripts and pulled accomplishes out of thin air.

Many students were appalled when they found out about their teachers’ duplicitous actions.

In the article, many students said that they had a hard time adjusting to college life after their time at TM Landry.

They pointed to the fact that Mr. Landry’s curriculum was exclusively focused on college admissions. “If it wasn’t on the ACT, I didn’t know it,” Bryson Sassau, a former TM Landry student, said, as reported by the Times.

Beyond his fraudulence and his exclusive focus on test-prep, Mr. Landry ruled his school as a patriarch.

His reign was charactered by a weird and deeply-troubling cult of personality.

According to the Times, he would repeatedly abuse his students physically and emotionally.

One of his favorite “activities” was to have his students say “I love you” in different languages.

One of these languages was so-called “Mike-a-nese.” In Mike’s fictional language, “I love you” translated into “Kneel.” Messed up, right?

I do not mean to compare KO to TM Landry in anyway whatsoever. That is not what I’m saying in the slightest. However, I think that TM Landry is emblematic of a larger societal trend that emphasizes college prestige and brand name to the exclusion of all else.

In Mr. Landry’s case, he prioritized it over his students’ emotional, physical and intellectual well-being. And for that, he should be ashamed.

I think that we at KO can take two primary lessons away from the TM Landry situation.

The first is that we should de-emphasize “college prestige.” We conflate a college’s history, academic reputation, etc. with how well we will thrive in that environment.

I know that I, myself, am certainly guilty of this conflation, as I’m sure many of us at KO are.

But remember the TM Landry students who got accepted to so-called “elite” institutions and then hated it?

Though different, I think it’s important for KO students to understand the culture of the place where they might spend the next four years of their lives. Blindly applying to all the Ivies probably isn’t a good ticket to success or happiness.

The second is that we should view our education at KO not simply as a means to an end.

We should all be incredibly grateful for the fact that we don’t attend TM Landry, that our teachers and advisors care about us, that we are learning interesting and useful material in the classroom. We should embrace the opportunities given us.

TM Landry is a reminder of what each and every one us can impose on ourselves.

If we only value college acceptance, high test scores, and good grades, we become our own Michael Landrys. We impose boundaries on ourselves, preventing us from truly learning.

As midterms season draws to a close, I think it’s important not to view these exams as simply another hoop to jump through, another box to check off before we graduate and move on.

As cliche as it sounds, try to embrace what you’re learning.

The most important lesson I learned from Mr. Goodman’s biology class—aside from the workings of neurons, of course—was to be curious, to always try to seek out knowledge and to ask questions. KO rewards the curious!