Twofish's Blog

July 24, 2006

Learning to drink from the firehose……

Looking back, I think one of the mistakes of MIT curriculum reform in the 1990’s was trying to reduce the pace, pressure, and stress.  I don’t think that this *should* be the goal.  The goal should be to teach people to deal with pace, pressure, and stress, and to serve as a laboratory to study how people do deal with the pace and pressure.  Pressure and stress is part of the workplace and of society, and looking back, one of the valuable things that I learned from MIT was how do deal with pace and pressure in a non-self-destructive way.

The model for what I think MIT should and could be is the Marines.  MIT was and should be “academic boot camp.”  The Marines let almost anyone who wants to join, join, and then molds them into crack soldiers.  I see the mission of MIT as doing the same thing with scientists, engineers, and managers.  Just like the marines, you let people know what they are in for, and help them make intelligent decisions about whether that type of life is what they want.

The other suggestion I would make is since we are trying to improve “human technology” that we treat “accidents” the same way that we treat plane crashes.  Any time a plane crashes or there is an accident, the NTSB convenes a review board, not to assign blame, but to see what can be learned to stop it from happening again.  The result is that you can now get on a plane and not have it crash.

What I think would be useful is to have the aerospace engineers, mental health, MIT administration, and cognitive scientists convene a NTSB-type accident review board each time something tragic happens at MIT.

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