2010-10-25

Princeton, Bitterness, and Pink Whistles

I was talking to one of my close friends (whom I shall not name here for the sake of privacy) from back home (he also goes to my old high school) over the phone (whoa, a phone! Who still uses those?) and he was asking me about stuff relating to college applications. Somehow, Princeton University entered our conversation, and he talked about how an admissions officer who visited our high school said this:
Don't show any of your friends your college applications. They're going to steal your essays.
First, let me leave aside any discussion of copyright. It isn't really applicable here, not because essays are or are not copyrighted, but because this is more a case of plagiarism (because these "friends" would be taking your work and claiming it as their own without crediting you in any way, and if you write your essays describe moments of your own life, they would be totally false when applied to your "friends'" lives). The reaction my friend and I simultaneously had was, "Doesn't this guy have more faith in people? He obviously must be bitter about a similar incident that happened in his high school or college years." I didn't get into Princeton, and knowing this, I'm actually glad that I didn't. Maybe it's fine for graduate school, but the undergraduate environment seems to foster cutthroat competition based on this statement.
It reminds me of the recent case of a couple high school (or was it college?) football referees being suspended for two games for using pink whistles to promote awareness of breast cancer. (I've always wondered why other diseases aren't publicized in the same way as breast cancer is, but I guess at the same time something is better than nothing. That's a post for another day.) The manager (or whatever he is) who suspended these referees said that using whistles that aren't black are against game regulations and that not suspending these referees for breaking the rules would tell players that it's OK to break the rules. In a word, no. The message the manager sent is that all laws are absolute (which they aren't) and that if the law says it's wrong, even if breaking the law doesn't hurt anybody and actually helps society, it's still punishable. Both of these people seemed to feel a little small and powerless, so they wanted to exercise their power by being total [expletive]s. I guess what they say is true after all: "No good deed goes unpunished."

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