A few years back, at a Catholic high school in suburban Washington, the students were sprung from the last class of the day. They gathered on the track and strolled around the football field twice. For this the kids were credited with 10 of their mandatory 20 annual service hours, an attractive T-shirt (real booty for the teen set), and the knowledge that somehow (though how was never entirely clear) their walkathon would help the homeless.
In other words, the kids got something -- 45 minutes of freedom from the rigors of geometry or chemistry, colorful clothing, the camaraderie of friends on a fine fall afternoon, a soothed conscience -- for nothing. The events patrons took something good, the youthful inclination toward service and the instinct to help the unfortunate, and turned it tawdry and transactional.