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I am taking the liberty of describing my vision of the future of MIT, within the framework of teaching, research and service. My comments are directed more to MIT's external relations and the role it can (should) play on the regional, the national and the world stages.
A guideline which should be stressed possibly more than it is now is"Do no harm while doing well by doing good" (much of recent technically driven change is extensive, irreversible and affects people and environments helpless to cope with it).
Another is the importance to try to see to it that our alumni are effective in the world. This implies ability to work in teams across disciplinary lines
And comfort with information, communication and control including IT an d some cognitive science.
The third is concern with the growing disparity between rich (well-educated) and poor (without opportunity to acquire salable skills) both within the US and internationally.
This leads me to suggest two initiatives: local involvement in a much greater systematic way in K-12 education and steering the on-line programs so that they include ladders to enable ambitious folk to profit from MIT level instruction.
The local activities would extend the sort of efforts already under way (MITES etc, Second Summer...) by testing materials in cooperation with local school systems and training teachers on a much expanded scale (think of the multiplier effect) to teach in terms of systems (e.g.urban systems) together with specific disciplines.They might also include education-oriented conferences similar to the ILO conferences, which would be open to the MIT community.
The present on-line courses are excellent for mid-career professionals looking for skill-updating and for retired folks seeking cultural enrichment; they do not help those who would want access to higher skills and greater opportunity; possibly some partnership with Community Colleges would help.
Finally, to make our students effective, I would emphasize participation in real world projects, internships and the like, which we are already doing, possibly including "professors of practice" and noting the complexities of intellectual property.
Posted on behalf of:
Professor Emeritus, Aero & Astro