Around 50 undergraduate students gathered Wednesday evening to brainstorm the future of MIT’s education at an event hosted by the UA Committee on Education with Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88.
In February, I attended a discussion with Chancellor Barnhart regarding the future of the MIT education. Our guiding questions: What bold experiments in education should MIT pursue? What should a college education entail? I was prompted by the discussion to reflect on the character of the education I have received. Intent on understanding the most fundamental aspects of nature, I came to MIT seeking an education in physics. I will certainly leave knowing much more physics than when I arrived. However, I have received, or more accurately, stumbled into a second education—one that I did not seek because I was not aware I needed it. I now believe this second education, which I will call my “human education,” is significantly more important than my technical one; and moreover, that it has benefited me in a deeper and more serious way. My motive for writing, then, is to clarify what I mean by this human education and to explain why it is particularly needful at MIT. I hope my peculiar experience may help others address the questions Chancellor Barnhart posed.
Dubbed “threads,” this new course structure aims to provide an alternative to the existing format of majors, minors, and concentrations. Central themes of the two threads to be introduced this fall include "real world robots" and "gut on a chip," respectively.
At a school like MIT, a global leader in technological innovation, students and faculty should work not only to promote technology’s advancement, but also to understand and craft comprehensive solutions to the issues it creates. One such problem is automation’s ability to displace many middle-class laborers by mechanizing their work.