Do we even know what cheating is anymore? That was the question I asked in a recent column about parents who falsified addresses —...

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Do we even know what cheating is anymore?

That was the question I asked in a recent column about parents who falsified addresses — in some cases by renting dummy apartments — to get their kids admitted to a public school in Wallingford. The resounding answer from readers has floored me.

In 300 e-mails, calls and online comments, the vast majority of you said these parents did nothing wrong.

It’s the school district that should be ashamed, some said.

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“You’re asking the wrong question,” phoned Wendy from Renton. “The real question is: Why are public schools so bad that normally good, law-abiding citizens are forced to lie and cheat just to assure their children will get a good education?”

I shouldn’t have labeled the parents “cheaters,” others said.

“I think what they did reflects well on their commitment to our program,” said Isabel D’Ambrosia, PTA co-president at the sought-after school, John Stanford International. “Your column is sad. You’re just airing dirty laundry.”

Others said ethics, schmethics. Striving to succeed is what’s important.

“This guy doesn’t want anyone to use their brains, muscle, influence, money, talent — whatever — to try to get ahead in school, society and life,” wrote a commenter on the blog Soundpolitics.com, where I was dubbed a “brainless apologist” for public schools who “completely misses the point.”

Many said the cheating is understandable due to the uneven quality of schools. Example: John Stanford School has the city’s only language immersion program, prompting 100 families to vie for just 35 slots.

“Putting a stellar program in a white, affluent neighborhood, and then saying only people in that neighborhood can attend — now that’s outrageous,” D’Ambrosia said. “Why don’t you write about that?”

OK, fair point. I know I’d like to have language immersion at my school, too.

But who is going to make that happen, if not parents?

In my neighborhood, some parents emerged a few years ago to support the school, Madrona K-8, which recently was one of the city’s federally designated “failing” schools due to low test scores.

They’ve raised more than $120,000 for Spanish, art and after-school programs. My daughter starts there this fall.

What bad parents we are. If we were truly committed to our kids, we would have used that money to rent apartments near the city’s top schools.

So I guess I still miss the point. Yes, public schools are a mixed bag. I’ve got a list of beefs, and my kids haven’t even started yet.

But our choices are to work to make the system better, or, if you’ve got the means, to move to another district or try private school.

Gaming the system robs others while making things better only for yourself. To do this under the guise of battling inequities is certainly ironic.

And depressing. In fact, as much as I respect you readers, I find your point this time to be so cynical, and ultimately so destructive, that I intend to go right on missing it.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Friday.

Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com.