10 Lessons of an MIT Education

Posted on April 20, 2007  Comments (0)

Very good, definitely worth reading – 10 Lessons of an MIT Education by Gian-Carlo Rota:

In science and engineering, you can fool very little of the time. Most of the sweeping generalizations one hears about MIT undergraduates are too outrageous to be taken seriously. The claim that MIT students are naive, however, has struck me as being true, at least in a statistical sense.

Last year, for example, one of our mathematics majors, who had accepted a lucrative offer of employment from a Wall Street firm, telephoned to complain that the politics in his office was “like a soap opera.” More than a few MIT graduates are shocked by their first contact with the professional world after graduation. There is a wide gap between the realities of business, medicine, law, or applied enginering, for example, and the universe of scientific objectivity and theoretical constructs that is MIT.

An education in engineering and science is an education in intellectual honesty. Students cannot avoid learning to acknowledge whether or not they have really learned. Once they have taken their first quiz, all MIT undergraduates know dearly they will pay if they fool themselves into believing they know more than is the case.

On campus, they have been accustomed to people being blunt to a fault about their own limitations-or skills-and those of others. Unfortunately, this intellectual honesty is sometimes interpreted as naivete.

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