Breaking The Academia Bubble

Having attended a boarding school for the last four years, I am altogether too familiar with the term “bubble effect.” This metaphoric phrase describes the coddled isolation common amongst the verdant courtyards of academia.

Students become so caught up with school that they become isolated from the “real world.” The primary symptom is severe ignorance of current events, politics, and global affairs. What I find ironic is that in such a technologically advanced world, the “bubble effect” is still a very real epidemic.

It’s mind-numbingly easy to be so caught up in school that one completely loses touch with the world at large. I think this holds true especially at a place like MIT where one’s weekdays usually are not counted by dates but deadlines for p-sets.

There’s also an unconscious aversion to doing things like watching or reading about the news because of its intellectual stimulation. “What? Nonsense!” One may splutter in disbelief. At higher-education institutions, everything and anything can become a source of intellectual discussion. Every college student is interested in discussing the financial crisis over Dunkin’ Donuts.

Right. The college student may lightly note the financial crisis only in the context of how difficult it is to obtain an internship. Then they would probably plow through and discuss the upcoming frat parties on the weekends.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not condemning the college student for doing what they do. Rushing from lectures to recitations and seminars, it’s a relief at times to get away from the world of academia. Choosing between conversing about the pros and cons of a sustainability bill and sleeping, I’m pretty sure most would pick the latter. I might even be guilty of the same thing depending on what day of the week it is.

The problem is, however, what the college students are not doing. If one views keeping up with current events as a chore, it becomes a burden. The truth is that news and a basic knowledge of current affairs shouldn’t fall under the category of academia but instead be considered part of one’s obligations as a good citizen.

Seeing that you live in the country, you should know about the financial situation at hand. Sure, it may not affect you directly at the moment but does one have to understand and know of something only when it is in the context of the individual? This thought strongly disturbs me.

With the wide range of media and sources of information, it’s not difficult to tap into tidbits of current events. There are even fewer physical and financial limitations than in the past to prevent us from hearing about global happenings. It’s simply a matter of breaking our indifference to reality and the academic bubble. Though one may feel comfortable and satisfied with being shielded from the “real world” when at college, eventually one must come face to face with the outside.

It’s probably not possible to be as attuned to current affairs as those in the work field. Things like tax increases or rising prices of gas are often not tangible worries. We will not feel the same way towards the financial crisis as those who have been laid off from their positions in companies like Lehman Brothers.

We should, however, at least make an effort to know of these things. Checking the New York Times online or the BBC’s headlines once or twice daily would take a total of ten to fifteen minutes from your day. That’s about the same amount of time it would take to Facebook stalk that cute boy who always sits two rows ahead of you in 18.02.

When you fall into the pattern of checking the news every day, it no longer becomes a chore but a part of your lifestyle. It keeps one of your feet in the real world and will prevent you from settling into the seductively comfortable — but ultimately debilitating — academia bubble.

Maggie Liu is a member of the Class of 2012.