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MIT needs more humanities

[mk1]To the Editor:

Science and Engineering is all-consuming at MIT. The Institute's revision of its Humanities and Social Science program is long overdue. At present, the undergraduate HASS requirement does not necessarily expose the student to a broad enough range of liberal arts ideas. It is too easy to limit study to areas that are largely quantitative, (like economics). The "purer" humanities courses that are available do not push students to improve their reading and writing skills, or pressure them to explore their limits of comprehension.

We suggest the following to the committee:

1. Impose a more hard-nosed grading policy in humanities subjects.

2. Establish a core curriculum including requirements in literature, psychology, writing, and Science, Technology and Society, (STS).

3. Exclude the Economics concentration in humanities.

4. Offer an ethics course.

MIT's rigorous enforcement of the humanities component of its education should compel students to take the liberal arts more seriously. Heightened awareness of the world around us, a crucial half of the college experience, is neglected at MIT. The highly specialized maths and sciences are disproportionately developed.

But that's why we came here, right? True, but we owe the technical community competence in communication, a mature ethical approach, and sensitivity to human needs. The scientific community is ultimately a social one, and in view of technology's awesome power, has grave responsibilities. MIT wll fail to reach goals of a complete education if it allows students to remain isolated in technical vacuums.

The goal of the liberal arts and social sciences is to develop this human awareness. If the proposals above were instituted, a narrowly-focused student reluctantly entering a required course may discover ideas (s)he would never otherwise consider.

MIT should continue the progress made by the writing requirement. Change in humanities education will, obviously, depend on the implementation of policies by faculty. There is no reason why the 21.001 professor should be any less demanding than the 6.001 instructor. Getting an A in a humanities class should be a challenge. If the Institute legitimizes rigor and breadth in HASS, both students and teachers will respond.

Janet Desaulniers '87->

Bublu Thakur '87->