Walking On Grass, Others
During four years at Princeton University and nearly a year at Yale Law School, I have been surrounded by students who dazzle. … But they are not always nice people. … the kind of “nice” that involves showing compassion not merely because membership in community service groups demands it. The kind of “nice” that involves sharing notes with a student who is sick or lending a textbook to a friend who doesn’t have one. The kind of selfless, genuine “nice” that makes this world a better place — but won’t get you accepted to college.
Of course, top universities accept hundreds of individuals who have demonstrated the highest levels of citizenship. These teenagers have volunteered in more food banks, sponsored more fundraisers and lobbied more officials than any previous generation. … Sometimes some of these students will denounce world hunger but be unfriendly to the homeless. They will debate environmental policy but never offer to take out the trash. They will believe vehemently in many causes but roll their eyes when reminded to be humble, to be generous and to “do what is right.”
It is these people, though, who often climb America’s ladder of success. They rise to the top, partly on their own merits yet also partly on the backs of equally deserving but “nicer” people who let them steal the spotlight. … Watching the race for the presidency, I cannot help but wonder whether our candidates, with their prestigious degrees and impressive credentials, are nice people. I wonder if, in their trek to the top, they have pushed aside the kind of quietly brilliant altruists who mean what they say and say what they mean. I wonder if our society is crippling itself by subjecting its youths to an almost-Darwinian college selection process.
Supporting Amelia, here is a pict I took at Harvard Thursday:
There are many foot paths, but even so without fences students cut across and kill the grass, to gain that extra few seconds. (Fences come down when parents show up for graduation.) Many other campuses have social norms that keep folks off the grass, but not Harvard.