Phi Beta Cons

Elite College Administrators Dabble in Social Engineering

Mark Bauerlein has written a “must-read” piece for SeeThru entitled “Harvard Report: American College Students are Selfish and Greedy.”

The bigwigs behind this report, supported by many deans, counselors, directors and VPs at top universities, are intent on making high school students become “more caring” by letting them know that the elite schools will insist on seeing real evidence of their community activism. They have figured out that a great many students merely pretend to do all the “service” that is supposedly so vital and therefore recommend that admissions officers see “meaningful, sustained community service” or else the students will have to go somewhere else.

So, excellent students who devote their spare time to, oh, mastering the cello or playing competitive chess or trying to start a business had better change their priorities if they want a shot at any of the elite universities.

We see here the old leftist penchant for redesigning society to comport with their ideas rather than leaving people alone to run their own lives.

Here’s one of the questions the authors of this report want students to have to answer: “Explore what you learned from a community service activity or consider what you learned from other efforts you’ve undertaken to contribute to your community/communities.” That’s an invitation to a lot of empty blather, but Bauerlein asks, “What if a student were to answer, ‘After working three months in a local welfare program, I have come to realize that most of the poor and disadvantaged persons in our society don’t need more services and resources — they need a better work ethic’?”

That, of course, would be the kind of honest answer that would probably get the student blacklisted among all the top schools.

If this develops the way the authors want and schools really start rejecting excellent students just because they don’t have glittering “service” credentials, the result will be to further weaken the crumbling idea that elite colleges mean elite education. The best students will go elsewhere, perhaps avoiding the traditional college degree altogether and “hacking” their degrees online.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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