Harvard's 'Kindness' Pledge:


By Christopher Shea for the Wall Street Journal

What could possibly be wrong with asking Harvard students to be nice to one another? This year, freshmen are being asked to make the following pledge:

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 a par with intellectual attainment.

Harry Lewis, a former dean of Harvard College, and Virginia Postrel voice their concerns. A foretaste of their arguments, from Lewis:

This is not a pledge to refrain from cheating, or to take out the garbage. It is not a pledge to act in a certain way. It is a pledge to think about the world a certain way, to hold precious the exercise of kindness. It is a promise to control one's thoughts. Though it refers to sound institutional values affirmed at Commencement, the pledge pretends to affirm them not through the educational process to which the Dean testifies, but through a prior restraint on students' freedom of thought. A student would be breaking the pledge if she woke up one morning and decided it was more important to achieve intellectually than to be kind.

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