Your comments concerning the recent Martin Luther King, Jr Annual Service Day reminded me of an after-dinner talk I gave a few years ago for a chapter of the National Honor Society at a nearby Catholic school.

I agree that it’s almost impossible not to be thought a curmudgeon, or even misanthrope, for raising critical questions these days about the increasing emphasis schools and colleges are placing on a “service component”. Some are even making it a graduation requirement, and anyone expressing reservations on this score is typically greeted with self-righteous disbelief: “Don’t you care about people’s needs? Don’t you think our students should be encouraged to put others first?”

Obviously it’s not a question of caring. It’s a question of emphasis, of quantity, of priority. Too many of our students, especially the over-achievers, have been conned into thinking that they’re not really making the most of their college days unless they’re “involved”—a word than which few others are repeated more often by admissions and career services people—in at least a dozen different organizations.

I don’t know about your place, but at my university the top honors at the annual Awards Day always go to the young people who’ve been the most active—which of course sends a signal to the rest of them that there’s something second-rate about the contemplative life and that they too must pad their resumes with “activities” if they’re to have any hope of success.

In any case the little talk I mentioned above—I call it “Words of a Fool“—will speak to your question, and complaint, much better than I could hope to do here. Let me know what you think.