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To divorce skills science and engineering from the human and social aspect of life is a terrible fallacy that denies the beauty and creativity of what we do. Yet that is what MIT does with its HASS requirement. I always felt my 8 HASS classes lacked rigor, were boring, and a waste of time because they were the same courses I would get at a community college. History classes should be offered that teach the history of our profession and how developments were constrained by their times. Writing classes should teach how to write a business proposal. Government classes should teach how to navigate the bureaucracy. Arts should teach us how to present our work in speech and in visual works. My two greatest deficiencies at graduation, though I did not know it at the time, were a lack of knowledge of the history of my field and how to obtain funding through private and government organizations. Finding inspiration in art and history has been a constant battle. MIT can not throw away 1/4 of the undergraduate education if it intends to remain the most envied university in the world, rather it must weave these human aspects of what we do back into our education to create scientist and engineers able to use all aspects of their talents to impact the world.

Education & Facilities, Educational experiences, HASS history arts writing


Yeah but...

I can see what you mean about the lack of classes in engineering history and how to obtain funding. Still you can't be serious about cutting HASS classes (Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences). Why not just skip college all together and just send students to an apprenticeship in their field of study? It's the duty of a university to put out well rounded, well educated future leaders. That means taking them outside of their comfort zone. How else will they be good at Jeopardy without HASS classes?

Redesigning not Replacing

I think what the original poster meant to imply was not that the HASS requirement should be thrown out, but that it should be rethought, and probably thoroughly redesigned. I agree, but I think perhaps a more important aspect of the HASS system is the attitude students have about it.

I love the visual arts, history, and writing for their own sake. Philosophy also captivates me. I don't need these things to directly tie into my major, necessarily. They are majors in their own, and I enjoy them for their own sake. Everyone needs hobbies and varied interests.

That said, all of these topics, as the original poster rightly explained, are critical to a successful career absolutely anywhere. The connections between HASS and engineering/science probably should be emphasized more clearly. This, I'm sure, was the purpose of the CI-Ms. After all, a history of world war 2 will tie into practically every major here, that being such an important time for science and engineering as well as nations and the world. I, as a teacher of such a course, could never address how that class tied in with each and every major at the school. Therefore, major-specific HASS classes clearly have to be offered.

In general, though, I think what we need is a better attitude in the student body towards HASS classes. I certainly don't mean this to be in direct reference to jackfrak, but many people I have met at MIT complain that their HASS classes are terrible, boring, and uninformative. Then, when searching for their next class, they look not for the most interesting or relevant class, but instead the one that appears the easiest or the least strict about attendance. Imagine if you chose your major classes that way! You would hate those, too, I bet.

I don't know how this attitude change could come about, but I think it is a better solution to the issue of HASS classes than any restructuring. MIT, after all, has some of the best humanities professors in the world, and there is already plenty of incredible content here for students to consume. They just need to find it and perhaps be reminded of where it might come in handy in their future.