Feb 152003

Not Ayn Rand; Harvard Professor of Government Harvey Mansfield, in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Harvard is afraid to look ambition in the face. To Harvard, ambition and the responsibility that accompanies it look elitist and selfish. (“Elitist” is the fancy, political version of “selfish.”) Harvard gives its students to understand that the only alternative to selfishness is selflessness. Morality is held to be sheer altruism; it is service to the needy and the oppressed. A typical Harvard student spends many, many hours in volunteer work on behalf of those less fortunate. But what he or she plans for his own life — a career — seems to have no moral standing. To prepare for a career is nothing but to make a selection under the regime of choice. It is careerism — a form of elitism and selfishness — that seems unattractive even to those contemplating it.

Selfless morality is fragile and suspicious: Who believes a person who claims to be unconcerned with himself? Yet mere selfishness is beneath one’s pride. Harvard is caught between these two extremes; it has lost sight of its virtue. It cannot come to terms with the high ambition that everyone outside Harvard sees to be its most prominent feature.

(Courtesy of Erin O’Connor.)

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