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I am in National Honors Society at my high-school and was inducted into the organization in October of last year. (For those who may not be familiar with it), NHS is an organization where you basically help out the community with random crap. At my school, everyone is required to complete 25 hours of community service per semester to stay in the organization. Theres about 100 kids in it out of about 1100 in my class, and you have to have good grades....be "honest," etc.. so I guess it's a somewhat selective group of kids.

I just read 'Atlas Shrugged' and 'Philosophy: Who Needs it' and I must say Atlas Shrugged is the most influential book on my life I have ever read.

See, since I don't believe in helping out people and organizations that won't directly benefit me, (i.e. trade something of value), I absolutely despise wasting my time completing these service hours. It is considered an "honor" to be in this program, and it makes me sick.

You may be asking, "Well, why are you in it?"

I'm still in it because I hope that having "Been in NHS for 2 years" on my college transcript will benefit me in the form of a college noticing that I am involved in school, therefore I would be a better candidate...etc, so it is for a selfish reason, but I still feel guilty being a part of an organization that I don't believe in, even though I'm somewhat gaining something from it.

Do you think it is moral for me to contradict myself, even if it is for personal gain? I need to convince myself to get out of this thing cause I hate it.

And, on a further note, do you think it's okay to help out the community out of your own free will, if you don't expect anything back from it?

(Hey this is my first post, and if this is in the wrong place in the forums, please let me know and I'll move it (or someone will I guess)) I apologize if I don't have this in the right spot.

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Welcome to the forum.

To tackle the easiest question first, though charity is not the route to "honor" in principle, at the same time there's nothing wrong with voluntary charity. Typically, there is lots wrong with schools that give kids brownie points for doing charity.

Should you stick with it or give it up? That's harder to say, because it requires a judgement about the specifics. On the "give it up" side, you say you do not like it. You also need to figure out whether you're gaining anything of value from the experience. On the "stick with it" side, you say it will help you get in to college. You need to figure out how much of help it really will be, and (more importantly) what else you could be doing with your time, perhaps doing something else that gives you an even better shot at a college of your choice.

If you stick with it, you need to figure whether you want to do the least possible to qualify for whatever; or, alternatively, since you're spending the time, whether it makes more sense to get as much as you can out of the experience.

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Welcome to the forum.

To tackle the easiest question first, though charity is not the route to "honor" in principle, at the same time there's nothing wrong with voluntary charity. Typically, there is lots wrong with schools that give kids brownie points for doing charity.

Should you stick with it or give it up? That's harder to say, because it requires a judgement about the specifics. On the "give it up" side, you say you do not like it. You also need to figure out whether you're gaining anything of value from the experience. On the "stick with it" side, you say it will help you get in to college. You need to figure out how much of help it really will be, and (more importantly) what else you could be doing with your time, perhaps doing something else that gives you an even better shot at a college of your choice.

If you stick with it, you need to figure whether you want to do the least possible to qualify for whatever; or, alternatively, since you're spending the time, whether it makes more sense to get as much as you can out of the experience.

Indeed, I've volunteered to help before, such as in serving meals to the homeless, because of my selfish desire to feel good helping someone. I just liked how grateful some of those folks felt to have a hot meal, particularly the folks with little kids. I challenge people all the time about how charity is really selfish. And I think that's great. We should help people because we want to, not because we feel we have to, or because some fire-and-brimstone deity says we have to. When you don't want to help you're doing it under false pretenses.

Heck, when I volunteer at my daughter's school it is because I know that it puts me in well politically to get the teachers I want, to be treated like royalty when I am there, etc. I like being adored by my daughter's teacher. And I make it clear that I'm helping because I want to. Sure, when my wife put together the book fair at the school, it was nice to see how the kids were in awe of the tropical jungle she created. Selfless? No way! It boosted her ego and it got the kids excited about books, which selfishly made us happy.

Now, you're service in NHS is not for naught. You're really doing it because of the payoff you hope it would bring to have it on a college application or a resume. That is enlightened self interest and it's OK. It's well-known that colleges and employers like that, and you do not have to be in NHS, so you are not being coerced or forced into this. You are not contradicting yourself.

A lot of this has to do with how we perceive things. I look at it in the reverse of what altruistic society teaches. They say you shouldn't "sell out" by doing something selfish. Well, in this case, if you "sell out," you get brownie points that could pay off later. It works out great. We all know that incentive gets people to do things, which is why capitalism works. This is way to align yourself early in life with the investor class. Here you are investing time rather than money. But if you look at life as a series of investments and payoffs, you'll get what you want and be happy too.

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I'm still in it because I hope that having "Been in NHS for 2 years" on my college transcript will benefit me in the form of a college noticing that I am involved in school, therefore I would be a better candidate...etc, so it is for a selfish reason, but I still feel guilty being a part of an organization that I don't believe in, even though I'm somewhat gaining something from it.(Bold mine)

I'm not going to address the question of whether or not you should believe in it, but if you don't believe in the organization then how is staying in it a selfish action? You could say "to get me into college", but at what cost? Is college worth abandoning your values, your ideals? Don't let the fact that colleges view a certain action as a good or bad action influence how you view that action. Get into college on your own standards and values; if the college won't accept you on your standards, why do you want to go at all? Keep in mind that no true value can be gained by the abdication of virtue. Would you sleep with an admissions officer in order to get into college? If you answer no, ask yourself why you answer no there but don't know how to answer in this case.

P.S.: Welcome to the forum! It's always nice to see another high-schooler around here.

P.P.S.: I think this thread fits more in the "Introductions and Personal notes" forum but I don't have the power to move it :-\

Edited by Cogito
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You could say "to get me into college", but at what cost? Is college worth abandoning your values, your ideals?

If university degree from a good college is your goal and maintaining NHS membership is truly going to help you achieve that goal then 25 hours of charity work/semester is an investment in your future. Morally there is nothing wrong with voluntary charity and in your case - you are expecting a value back from doing it.

(An example of morally wrong: doing this charity work out of a sense of obligation to the community, when not requied by NHS, at a cost of pursuing some higher value (like not spending enough time studying for the sake of helping others). Another example: if you would actively support the idea of using charity work as a criteria for college admission).

Edited by ~Sophia~
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I think you may be confusing objectivist ideals.

Acting in your own interest is a good thing, but that doesn't mean you can't volunteer to help out your community. If you believe helping your community will benefit you, whether small or big, then it is justifiable.

In your case you're not only increasing the value of the community you live in, you're also giving yourself NHS credit. If you believe the benefit outweighs the cost go for it, if not, don't do it.

If it is beneficial to you then it really isn't charity, it is volunteer work, but you're not being altruistic. If you feel the need, call people out if they say you're doing charity work, then maybe you could share some of your ideas. You're not volunteering to be sacrificial, you're volunteering to benefit yourself and the community YOU live in.

Also, I wanted to say just because Ayn Rand says so doesn't mean you have to follow it. I agree with so much with what she says, and right now I can't actually think of anything I disagree with, but if I did I would certainly call it out. People are not infallible. She has great ideas, if you were going to follow any ideas I'd hope they would be hers, but it doesn't hurt to be a critical thinker even when dealing with great people.

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On a moral note, I concur with others' pointing out that helping others even voluntarily is not automatically altruistic. However, I guess that this isn't the point for the NHS system, which is aimed squarely at trying to promote altruist ideals. Generally I would say that one should not sanction that kind of system - but here's a caveat. I would tend to hold that whatever you can do to get what you want, without initiating force or defrauding the innocent, is usually fair game. For college applications, those mugs often discriminate on the basis of irrational and improper bases, and if you can fulfill the letter of those requirements without sanctioning the spirit of the system, then go for it. I recall Dr Peikoff saying it was perfectly legitimate to lie your backside off in those dubious and impudent psyche tests that some employers give to candidate employees, and I imagine this falling into a similar category.

On a technical note in pursuit of that caveat, I recall that the Ayn Rand Institute set something up that allowed kids to do something of benefit to meeting Institute goals in such a way as satisfied the requirements of 'community action.' It was set up in response to the volunteerist movement several years ago (late 90's), though I don't know if it is still operational. Even if not they can probably figure something out, so get in contact with them and see what mutually beneficial arrangements you can come up with.

JJM

Edited by John McVey
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Welcome to the forum, bicklevov.

From what I have read in this post, I agree with what most everybody else said about volunteerism and charity. I, too, have been through the NHS system, and I'll tell you what I know.

First, as John McVey said, the NHS is an organization that appears to have as its goal an installation of altruistic ideals in its members. The degree to which this is apparent is most likely different from high school to high school -- at mine, it was almost unbearable (As a sidenote, I hadn't read Rand during high school -- all I knew was that I FELT kind of uneasy about the idea of forced volunteerism... I say "forced" because, although you are not OBLIGATED to join the NHS, if you are in the grade range and you do not, you will be constantly nagged by your teachers and guidance counselor about joining, and they will tell you that your chances of getting into a good school will greatly diminish if you don't join-- to a highschool student, at least, that seems pretty forceful... especially since, if you are in competitive classes, getting into a good college is all you focus on throughout high school).

Also, as John McVey said, and beat me to, the Ayn Rand Institute had apparently set up a program a few years back to counter this very problem -- I wish I had known about it. Here is the press release from a few years back: http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=New...cle&id=6139 I would take John's advice in contacting them.

Now, are you a junior or a senior? I assume you are a junior since you are still talking about college applications? If that's the case, you still have time to act.

So, as others said, do what you like doing, and do what is important to you. If you have discovered what your values are, and after thinking about it, membership in the NHS does not infringe on those values, then by all means, go for it. BUT, you do not need the NHS to get somewhere in life, contrary to what your advisors will tell you, or at least, what they told me.

For example, I have a friend who for whatever reason, couldn't join the NHS. But he made up for it -- he was captain of a sports team, involved in numerous after school activities, and was a member of just about every extra-curricular political organization the school offered -- except for being a school officer. His grades weren't SPECTACULAR, as in, they weren't straight A +'s, but he was a solid honor roll student -- probably something like a few A's and a B on his report cards. He was involved in AP classes and did pretty well on his SATs, although, once again, not spectacular. But all of these things gave him character and values -- and because of that, he was not only accepted to far better schools than some of the top kids in the class (who were, of course, all members of NHS), but he got a lot of money from those schools as well.

If I'm not mistaken, there is actually somebody on this board who is a member of a college acceptance committee -- maybe they will tell you differently, I can't say. But, from my personal experience, and from what I have seen, there are other ways of getting into a good school that don't involve membership in the NHS. In fact, if I remember correctly, most college applications, in the essay section, have either a free-write, or an essay option asking you to describe some volunteer activity or something along those lines -- those are perfect places to explain your view on volunteerism and why you (potentially) valued other activities over NHS. Colleges want someone with character.

Welcome to the forum, bicklevov.

From what I have read in this post, I agree with what most everybody else said about volunteerism and charity. I, too, have been through the NHS system, and I'll tell you what I know.

First, as John McVey said, the NHS is an organization that appears to have as its goal an installation of altruistic ideals in its members. The degree to which this is apparent is most likely different from high school to high school -- at mine, it was almost unbearable (As a sidenote, I hadn't read Rand during high school -- all I knew was that I FELT kind of uneasy about the idea of forced volunteerism... I say "forced" because, although you are not OBLIGATED to join the NHS, if you are in the grade range and you do not, you will be constantly nagged by your teachers and guidance counselor about joining, and they will tell you that your chances of getting into a good school will greatly diminish if you don't join-- to a highschool student, at least, that seems pretty forceful... especially since, if you are in competitive classes, getting into a good college is all you focus on throughout high school).

Also, as John McVey said, and beat me to, the Ayn Rand Institute had apparently set up a program a few years back to counter this very problem -- I wish I had known about it. Here is the press release from a few years back: http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=New...cle&id=6139 I would take John's advice in contacting them.

Now, are you a junior or a senior? I assume you are a junior since you are still talking about college applications? If that's the case, you still have time to act.

So, as others said, do what you like doing, and do what is important to you. If you have discovered what your values are, and after thinking about it, membership in the NHS does not infringe on those values, then by all means, go for it. BUT, you do not need the NHS to get somewhere in life, contrary to what your advisors will tell you, or at least, what they told me.

For example, I have a friend who for whatever reason, couldn't join the NHS. But he made up for it -- he was captain of a sports team, involved in numerous after school activities, and was a member of just about every extra-curricular political organization the school offered -- except for being a school officer. His grades weren't SPECTACULAR, as in, they weren't straight A +'s, but he was a solid honor roll student -- probably something like a few A's and a B on his report cards. He was involved in AP classes and did pretty well on his SATs, although, once again, not spectacular. But all of these things gave him character and values -- and because of that, he was not only accepted to far better schools than some of the top kids in the class (who were, of course, all members of NHS), but he got a lot of money from those schools as well.

If I'm not mistaken, there is actually somebody on this board who is a member of a college acceptance committee -- maybe they will tell you differently, I can't say. But, from my personal experience, and from what I have seen, there are other ways of getting into a good school that don't involve membership in the NHS. In fact, if I remember correctly, most college applications, in the essay section, have either a free-write, or an essay option asking you to describe some volunteer activity or something along those lines -- those are perfect places to explain your view on volunteerism and why you (potentially) valued other activities over NHS. Colleges want someone with character.

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I too think that voluntarily fulfilling the service requirements of National Honor Society is morally fine if you perceive to be obtaining some rational selfish value such as being able to accentuate your future college applications. It is important to note that National Honor Society does not extol community service as its only value. Actually, NHS promotes Scholarship, Leadership, Service and Character. The other three are selfish values.

Joining an organization such as Rotary Interact, whose primary overarching philosophy is to promote global and community service, would be a different issue.

Edited by DarkWaters
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I recall Dr Peikoff saying it was perfectly legitimate to lie your backside off in those dubious and impudent psyche tests that some employers give to candidate employees, and I imagine this falling into a similar category.

Now that I think on it, and after a little chat in the chatroom, there was also an important qualification for the principle at hand. IIRC, what he said only applied because there were restrictive laws that limited employment possibilities. Those immoral laws made it difficult to get by. If such laws did not exist, then rather than lying to get such a job the appropriate response to such tests is to walk away from that employer and go to another who did not require such tests. Again, your college application problem would fall into a similar category because of laws restricting the provision of education, accreditation, scholarships, and so on. Without them then it would be immoral to use a community service record to get into a college that demands one, where the proper response would be to try for a college that is not so irrational.

JJM

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Being part of the National Honor Society is not immoral or wrong; it is a means to achieving your goals, and it does not ask that you do anything illegal, etc.

Performing "community service" is perfectly OK -- but NOT if it is mandatory for ALL students. As a stipulation of belonging to a club, mandating such service is fine.

Charitable organizations are - usually - perfectly legitimate services that rely on the general goodwill of most people --> think "benevolent universe."

Bottom line: requiring community service to graduate from high school is wrong. Choosing to belong to an organization (NHS) that requires same is not wrong.

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Similar to what others have said, NHS can "directly benefit" you in terms of getting into the college of your choice. I don't think it will make a major difference, though. If you have good grades, good standardized test scores, and involvement in other extracurricular activities, being in NHS won't certainly make or break you. But it is something extra you can add to your resume, if you want to do your absolute most to try to get admission into the college(s) of your choice.

Edited by Mimpy
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NHS can "directly benefit" you in terms of getting into the college of your choice. I don't think it will make a major difference, though.

I second this. Especially since each high school sets its own admission standards for its NHS chapter. In my high school if you were either at least a C student in all honors courses, a B student in all accelerated courses or an A student in the standard (non-college bound) courses guaranteed that one would meet the scholarship requirement for NHS. In addition, if I remember correctly, the service requirements were also pretty relaxed. Being a bench-warmer on a single junior varsity sports team sufficed the service requirement but starting on (i.e. being one of the five students who started on each of) the school's math team, chess team and quizbowl team did not count as at least one minute of community service. I suppose that the latter events never drew a large enough crowd.

All this being said, being accepted into NHS is still an achievement in itself. In addition, whatever service requirement you will need to fulfill to become a member is probably modest enough anyway where it will not be a compromise of your principles given that you can selfishly list your membership on your college application.

The Ayn Rand Institute's internship program where you can volunteer to end volunteerism sounds like a fun opportunity.

Edited by DarkWaters
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I've always considered joining clubs and organizations (NHS) specifically to have an advantage at admission dirty. I am planning to mention why I have no clubs on my transcript in all my essays. :)

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Wow, guys. Thanks a ton. I'm not totally sure yet of what to do, but seeing as how I am a junior, I am going to wait until this summer to think about re-enrolling or not. I agree that it can be of some benefit of me, and since I'm not the most terribly involved student (I prefer my own pursuits- playing in a band, photography, biking....etc.), I think it would be decently worth it in the long run. My general thinking is that I will stay in it for my own benefit.

And I might as well mention that I have been reading these forums for a few days after I found this website. I've.... never actually found a place on the internet like this! I can deal with rational people! This is one of the coolest things EVER. And I also enjoy the general intellect of the people that use these forums. It's so nice not to see "YOURE GAY OMGOMGOMG!!!!one!111" all over these forums, as is common just about everywhere else on internet forums.

Again, thank all of you for your helpful suggestions! Anyone else have anything to say... go ahead! :)

Edited by bicklevov
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Hey! Welcome to the forum.

The importance of NHS will depend on the selectivity of a particular college. The Ivys, for example, aren't likely to care very much, while a smaller school that doesn't have very many NHS members matriculate might be impressed.

As for the service part of it, perhaps there is some volunteer work that would be of particular value to you. I know my friend who is premed volunteered at a hospital while she was in high school. I've done tutoring with the hope that it will increase my chances of getting a job as a tutor in college. I also thinks it helps me keep up with old material. Not all volunteer work is useless.

However, if you don't enjoy the club, don't stay in it. I'm not a big fan of people making themselves miserable just to get into college. I'm a senior right now, going to Caltech in the fall. I've watched a few of my friends obsess over which clubs would impress Harvard/Yale/Princeton/whatever the most. It ended poorly in each case. Colleges get plenty of students trying to impress them. What they're looking for is genuine passion. If you have to fake the passion to get in, then you probably shouldn't be going to that school anyway.

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I've always considered joining clubs and organizations (NHS) specifically to have an advantage at admission dirty. I am planning to mention why I have no clubs on my transcript in all my essays. ;)

I suspect that admissions offices unanimously dislike the practice of insincerely joining organizations for the main purpose of pretending to be involved. However, the colleges you are applying to will indeed wonder why you perceive all of the available organizations to be of no interest or value to you.

going to Caltech in the fall
Congratulations! Edited by DarkWaters
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The situation with the National Honor Society is sad. It used to be a scholastic honor that was bestowed on the top students strictly on the basis of class rank. It wasn't something you were invited to "join" at all let alone requiring "service". If you qualified you were a "member" and were free to go to the few meetings if you wanted to. There was never any question of not accepting the honor.

I presume that qualifying for the NHS is still meaningful on college applications, but if your grades are still very good and not sliding, it may not matter if you don't continue with it. Maybe you could remain until your college applications are complete and then ignore it.

As for trying to impress colleges with "service", for a good college focused on education I doubt it would matter. They can see from your application the substance of your academic work and initiative and interest in other meaningful activities. I wouldn't go out of my way wasting time on unnecessary "service" at the expense of more meaningful, serious and important ways to invest your time.

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