Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Nice guys don’t get into Princeton?

So argues this Princeton alumna and current Yale 1L. Is it nice to describe your classmates as not nice? (For the record, there’s a nice young woman from my church who’ll be entering Yale this Fall. I hope she can stay that way.)

Stated a bit more modestly, her larger point is that there’s a tension between achievement (as we define it) and what Hobbes would call complaisance. Our meritocratic college admissions and career advancement processes reward the former but don’t really take the latter into account. And there’s apparently nothing in high-flying college life to encourage the latter.

By contrast, I’ve encountered lots of nice college students, some at places I’ve visited in recent weeks, some at places where friends teach, and some at my own institution. In some cases (I know I’m using "some" too much), these nice kids are pretty doggone smart and might even be described as high achievers. But, so far as I can tell, they’re not ambitious self-promoters. Might it be because they recognize their "giftedness" as actually a gift from someone? That gives me a bit of hope for the young woman (Yale College, Class of 2012) from my church.

Discussions - 8 Comments

What a piece of self-important drivel. She is basically saying "look at me, I go to Yale, I'm a genius! Oh, and I went to Princeton too! Double genius! Oh, but I'm also 'nice,' I'm not a self-important jerk like everyone else."

Nonsense. She's just pointing out that forcing kids to be do-gooders for the poor (and other official victim groups) does not necessarily fashion good character. If I were a college admissions officer, I would care more about an applicant's character than about his or her record of what amounts to conscripted public service (conscripted because competitive colleges now expect it). Character is, as the young author indicates, measured better by how one treats one's fellows, quietly and without being noticed, than by the hours spent in soup kitchens and causes. It's "what we do when no one is looking." If a student is good at looking compassionate and committed to the poor and disadvantaged, but is in fact sharp-elbowed and callous toward fellow students who need help, he/she is a perfect prototype for the worst kind of liberal. That may, of course, be exactly what some admissions officers want, but it's not what decent people anywhere SHOULD want.

Are you kidding? That op-ed was the least substantive thing I have read this year. She was whining because people aren't more friendly to her, and bragging about her accomplishments. That is pretty much it.

Hard to know her motives. But that doesn't matter. What matters is whether she makes a good point. She does.

Chapter 26 of Leviathan is part of why Hobbes conflicts with Hegel, but perhaps both might agree that it is unlikely to live outside of how we define achievement or the tension between Power and Goodness.

Ch 31 actually...Sloppy even when I seek to appear intelligent.

Of course in Ch 26 you find this gem: "The source of every crime, is some defect of the understanding; or some error in reasoning; or some sudden force of the passions."

But most of all I doubt my laughter with Hobbes: "the passion of laughter is nothing else but a sudden glory arising from sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmities of others, or with our own formerly"

An appetite we can obtain is called Hope, one we cannot Despair..."Words are wise men’s counters, they do but reckon by them; but they are the money of fools, that value them by the authority of an Aristotle, a Cicero, or a Thomas, or any other doctor whatsoever, if but a man."

Applying to myself mostly: "The privilege of absurdity; to which no living creature is subject but man only."

Hard to know her motives. But that doesn't matter.

If motive does not matter for her, why does it matter for the "do-gooders"? Are the people at the soup kitchen worse off because the volunteers were not entirely altruistic?

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