Ah, so I understand you point better now, and yeah I believe we’re essentially on the same page.
I do agree with the point of life-resume-packers (I like the term btw). I have to admit my initial statement was a little naive, since you are right about some people that do things just to use them for such an essay/resume, instead of genuinely stating their experiences and what they gained. I guess I was relying too much on that moral superiority, expecting everybody at this level to actually pursue things for the experience more than to just fluff their resumes
Although it is true that for the committee it might be hard to determine your original intentions, I don't see why you would feel it's morally wrong to write this. As long as we're being genuine with our own intentions and interests, I feel it's good to put them out there.
It's just that you're quite right about this being a requirement, but just buckling down and doing it because it needs to be done is seriously impeding on all of the moral superiority I'm supposed to get by earning a Ph.D.
Now I definitely agree with you here, and a big part of the application process feels this way, not just this particular essay (including future experiences such as postdoc/job hunting, and then teaching and tenure, or moving up the corporate ladder, etc...). But I really don't know what can be done to get everyone to stop jumping through the hoops...
Unfortunately, there are a lot of things out there that require you to "buckle down and do it" and if you don't play the game, somebody else will in your place. Now, I agree that this sort of mentality just keeps the circle going, and ideally we could just defy it and get rid of it, but in reality one just gets overrun by the system.
Not to say nothing should be done about it, and I believe the process can be slowly changed. But I don't think outright defying it will accomplish anything (unless you actually get essentially everybody in on it, which in practical terms is impossible).