Monday, November 7, 2011

Why MIT?

Grafton at the NY Review of Books uses MIT as the intro to his analysis of the failure of US Universities. Why?

He states:

Yet American universities also attract ferocious criticism, much of it from professors and from journalists who know them well, and that’s entirely reasonable too. Every coin has its other side, every virtue its corresponding vice—and practically every university its festering sores. At the most prestigious medical schools, professors publish the work of paid flacks for pharmaceutical companies under their own names. At many state universities and more than a few private ones, head football and basketball coaches earn millions and their assistants hundreds of thousands for running semiprofessional teams. Few of these teams earn much money for the universities that sponsor them, and some brutally exploit their players.

At competitive private colleges and universities, admissions directors reserve places in each class for the children of alumni and potential donors; for athletes, many of whom will make less use of their academic opportunities than their classmates do; and simply for those who can pay. And at universities that boast of their commitment to undergraduate teaching, too many professors gabble through PowerPoint slides twice a week and entrust the face-to-face teaching of actual students to underpaid graduate students and Ph.D.s on short-term contracts, who do their best to impart basic skills in writing and quantitative analysis while earning only a few thousand dollars a course.

Frankly this does not play at all at MIT. Perhaps Princeton or Yale, but MIT? really. Why do we have so many from China, tuition free, and then they return because we fail to get them resident visas. They are creative, productive and not chose from alumni children, in fact the alumni offspring are limited at best.

MIT produces some of the best, if not often the best. One wonders who chose the photo for this article?

We have no short term PhDs, we have senior faculty teaching Freshman, more than one can say about many other institutions. Shame on the Review.

Perhaps he should investigate the alleged NYU student and puppet user who complains as noted in the piece which states:

Here’s an astounding illustration of my argument that “American students are not studying the fields with the greatest economic potential.”

The Nation: A few years ago, Joe Therrien, a graduate of the NYC Teaching Fellows program, was working as a full-time drama teacher at a public elementary school in New York City. Frustrated by huge class sizes, sparse resources and a disorganized bureaucracy, he set off to the University of Connecticut to get an MFA in his passion—puppetry. Three years and $35,000 in student loans later, he emerged with degree in hand, and because puppeteers aren’t exactly in high demand…he’s working at his old school as a full-time “substitute”…[earning less than he did before].
…Like a lot of the young protesters who have flocked to Occupy Wall Street, Joe had thought that hard work and education would bring, if not class mobility, at least a measure of security…But the past decade of stagnant wages for the 99 percent and million-dollar bonuses for the 1 percent has awakened the kids of the middle class to a national nightmare: the dream that coaxed their parents to meet the demands of work, school, mortgage payments and tuition bills is shattered.

What astounds me is not that someone could amass $35,000 in student loans pursuing a dream of puppetry, everyone has their dreams and I do not fault Joe for his. What astounds me is that Richard Kim, the executive editor of The Nation and the author of this article, thinks that the failure of a puppeteer to find a job he loves is a good way to illustrate the “national nightmare” of the job market. Even in a wealthy society it’s a privilege to have the kind of job that Kim thinks are the entitlement of the middle class. And, as Tyler says, we are not as wealthy as we thought we were.

In considering the plight of the puppeteer lets also remember that millions of the unemployed would be grateful to have a job that they don’t like.

When I entered MIT I did so by looking at the NY Times, 1959, and seeing what jobs were available. I really wanted "pure math" but frankly there were no jobs for pure mathematicians. Thank God MIT had EE, it was close enough to being an electrician just in case! And when I finished I had no debt!