It’s useful to think of Stanford students (and their peers around the country and around the world) as flowers in a garden. Many tend them—parents, counselors, test prep specialists, teachers, professors, friends—and they generally bloom in response to such careful cultivation. These flowers, while beautiful, are young and fragile and must be sheltered from the elements. Thank goodness for the constant gardening.

I am a weed in their garden, masquerading as a flower. I can’t be told stories about the world outside the garden by the gardeners because I’ve been further and seen more than any of them. I am calloused and don’t respond to the regimen of organic diet, self-congratulatory volunteer work, and politically correct pillow talk that grows so many other young leaders of the free world. I grew my roots slowly, painfully, in the dry rocky soil of the real world.

I don’t meant to romanticize such a life, only say that the hardier plants grow to be much stronger than is possible in the garden. But why leave the vibrant colors, constant distractions, and beautifully simple garden for a morally ambiguous (even dangerous) outside world? Here the patterns of life are essentially known: you do A, you get B. But what if the world didn’t help ensure B followed from A? What would our poor flower do then?

“A former community college student and Marine combat veteran, later a student at Stanford”, in William Deresiewicz, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life