Friday, September 16, 2011

Codes of Kindness

Apparently Harvard has introduced a "code of kindness", so says Bloomberg.  That should put a crimp in the style of some of its well know faculty who were at the heart of the most recent economic collapse. As Bloomberg states:

It reads, in full: 

“At Commencement, the Dean of Harvard College announces to the President, Fellows, and Overseers that ‘each degree candidate stands ready to advance knowledge, to promote understanding, and to serve society.’ That message serves as a kind of moral compass for the education Harvard College imparts. In the classroom, in extracurricular endeavors, and in the Yard and Houses, students are expected to act with integrity, respect, and industry, and to sustain a community characterized by inclusiveness and civility. 

“As we begin at Harvard, we commit to upholding the values of the College and to making the entryway and Yard a place where all can thrive and where the exercise of kindness holds a place on par with intellectual attainment.” 

The original plan was to post the pledge in each dorm entryway, along with the names and signatures of the students living there. Although signing was supposed to be voluntary, any dissent would have been obvious. 

 Now down the street, at MIT, I never really saw nasty people, competitive, but never nasty. I would guess there may be some. Arrogant, but arrogant and smart and being right is OK. Nasty, well read Watson's book. Cambridge is down right nasty, class nasty. The Double Helix is an example of class structure.

Now one wonders who in their right mind established this thing. There are enough things to deal with that one should not add the burden of wondering if perhaps I offended someone. I am certain that it has been done many time without intent. Is there a mens re involved, is intent necessary. Why we can keep the Harvard Law School busy for decades, and keep the faculty away from our civil rights. They can opine on nonsense such as this.

What is next, taking attendance?

Bloomberg continues:

And that brings us to the second half of the pledge equation: intellectual attainment. Not inquiry or excellence, but “attainment.” What a strange, and revealing, choice of words. 

Consider a common argument in favor of the pledge. It starts with a survey last spring in which then-freshmen were asked to indicate how they believed Harvard ranked various values, and then to do the same ranking for themselves. Students deemed “success” as Harvard’s highest value while ranking “compassion” low for the university. By contrast, they put compassion high on their personal lists, ranking it fourth behind hard work, honesty and respect. 

 Attainment? Are you nuts! This is the problem. As an MIT PhD student your goal was to beat all others across the finish line, to be the best, to beat your brains out to have the most, the best, whatever, and alone! It was a Marine Corps of the intellect. Harvard was not far behind in those days. What are they, a Community College,  then charge tuition for attainment and not excellence.

We wonder why costs at universities are skyrocketing. It is because we hire people like this. Harvard got a pledge, MIT lost a faculty club. That's a story for another day. Same problem, just a different side.