Please submit your essay using the below form. The deadline for submissions is 11:59pm on October 22, 2023.
The college essay contest is open only to Yale undergraduates. The high school essay contest is open to all American high school students.
Prizes: First-place, second-place, and third-place winners will receive $1000, $500, and $250, respectively. All winners will be invited to our annual conference in New Haven at the end of the fall semester to receive recognition.
“Certainly there is no more innocent-seeming form of debauchery than the worship of comfort; and, when it is accompanied by a high degree of technical resourcefulness, the difficulty of getting people not to renounce it but merely to see its consequences is staggering. The task is bound up, of course, with that of getting principles accepted again, for, where everything ministers to desire, there can be no rebuke of comfort. As we endeavor to restore values, we need to earnestly point out that there is no correlation between the degree of comfort enjoyed and the achievement of a civilization. On the contrary, absorption in ease is one of the most reliable signs of present or impending decay.”
In his book Ideas Have Consequences, excerpted above, Richard Weaver argues that “absorption in ease is one of the most reliable signs of present or impending decay.” Weaver wrote in 1948 but America has only become wealthier and more comfortable since. Has an obsession with opulence and comfort put America on a path to decay or has America’s unprecedented wealth allowed it to flourish?
High School Contest
Current High School students should submit a response of between 700 and 800 words. Open to all students in Grades 9 to 12 who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Yale College Contest
Yale College undergraduate students should submit a response of between 1,000 and 1,200 words.
Yale College students may want to consider these supplementary questions as they begin thinking about their response. However, addressing these questions is not required:
If America is indeed on the path to decay, what are the clearest signs of this decay? Are there any correctives that you would offer to modern society that could abate the negative effects? Or was Weaver’s critique misplaced? If so, where does he go wrong with his diagnosis?