The discussion also reinforced a thought I’ve had in many other contexts: that community service has become a patch for morality. Many people today have not been given vocabularies to talk about what virtue is, what character consists of, and in which way excellence lies, so they just talk about community service, figuring that if you are doing the sort of work that Bono celebrates then you must be a good person.
Let’s put it differently. Many people today find it easy to use the vocabulary of entrepreneurialism, whether they are in business or social entrepreneurs. This is a utilitarian vocabulary. How can I serve the greatest number? How can I most productively apply my talents to the problems of the world? It’s about resource allocation.
People are less good at using the vocabulary of moral evaluation, which is less about what sort of career path you choose than what sort of person you are.
In whatever field you go into, you will face greed, frustration and failure. You may find your life challenged by depression, alcoholism, infidelity, your own stupidity and self-indulgence. So how should you structure your soul to prepare for this? Simply working at Amnesty International instead of McKinsey is not necessarily going to help you with these primal character tests.
Furthermore, how do you achieve excellence? Around what ultimate purpose should your life revolve? Are you capable of heroic self-sacrifice or is life just a series of achievement hoops? These, too, are not analytic questions about what to do. They require literary distinctions and moral evaluations.
It’s worth noting that you can devote your life to community service and be a total schmuck. You can spend your life on Wall Street and be a hero. Understanding heroism and schmuckdom requires fewer Excel spreadsheets, more Dostoyevsky and the Book of Job.
Jacob spoke first.
“I want to know if my hair is just like yours,” he told Mr. Obama, so quietly that the president asked him to speak again.
Jacob did, and Mr. Obama replied, “Why don’t you touch it and see for yourself?” He lowered his head, level with Jacob, who hesitated.
“Touch it, dude!” Mr. Obama said.
As Jacob patted the presidential crown, Mr. Souza snapped.
“So, what do you think?” Mr. Obama asked.
“Yes, it does feel the same,” Jacob said.
This entire year we’ve been waiting on the official approval of our program after the reorganization of the College of Ed…so thrilled that HESI (Higher Ed, Student Affairs, and International Education Policy) is officially approved as a program at UMCP!
(hot) samosa + (cold) chocolate soymilk @umd co-op, ftw
Also, huge demographic milestone: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/us/whites-account-for-under-half-of-births-in-us.html?src=me&ref=general
Pretty staggering. Can’t help but think about what a significant role Asian Americans are going to play in all of this.
“The question is, how do we reimagine the social contract when the generations don’t look like one another?” said Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, co-director of Immigration studies at New York University.
[or should they say, new dean of ucla gse&is!]
(No idea how nytimes.com generates my “recommended for you” article list. #2 now is “Neglected, Rotting Trees Turn Deadly.”)
She expects excellence in whatever the girls do — even fire drills. “Our average is 2 minutes and 10 seconds,” she said, standing in the street on a recent day, watching the girls leave the building.
After the last girl had filed out, the assistant principal, Gilda King, checked the time and said, “One minute and 40 seconds.”
“A record,” Sister Dolores said.
At a party held by the school before the annual prom, girls bring their dates to meet Sister Dolores. “She looks deep into the boys’ eyes,” said Effie Maldari, the school’s finance director and a member of the class of ’68. Sister Dolores is checking to make sure they are worthy of a Fontbonne girl.
Plus it unsettles the boys a little.