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Striving to Enjoy Classes

Guest Column Misha V. Koshelev

A few days ago, a friend of mine asked me for advice on homework for a music class she was taking. I listened to her problem but couldn't immediately think of an answer. Just as I was about to leave, she said a phrase which really made me think: "It's too bad I can't devote as much time as I would like to this class; I keep having to tell myself that it isn't that important."

I must admit that I have been at MIT for less than one semester, and may be completely wrong about this, but it seems to me that this response is a sign of a disturbing trend which is present among at least most of the people I have met here, and which it seems is the root cause of many of the problems that exist at MIT. All too often, people take tons of classes which they don't enjoy and then begin complaining about how overstressed they are and how few hours of sleep they are getting. They seem to be applying some sort of "delayed gratification" principle to their studies: "The less I enjoy myself now, the more I will enjoy myself after I graduate and get a good job."

My message to these people: "Wake up!" If you are, for example, in Course VI, and you don't like most of the classes you are taking, what makes you think that after you graduate, you will like the electrical engineering job that you will have? Of course, you can't possibly expect to like the job if you fit such a profile. Now, you can't possibly expect to like every single class that you are taking (Circuits and Electronics (6.002) would be a common example for Course VIers), but why not strive to be taking as many enjoyable classes as possible?

Many consider humanities, arts, and social science distribution classes to be the ultimate chore. There is a lot of writing involved, so many MIT students feel the classes can't possibly be any fun. In fact, most people seem to choose their HASS-Ds with this view already in mind. Specifically, most people choosing HASS-Ds seem to have the following logic: "If it's not going to be fun anyway, why bother trying to choose something that I really, really like? Rather, I'll just choose something that's kind of interesting and that will fit into my schedule." And even if they do end up with HASS-Ds that they find really enjoyable, they tend to spend less time on them than they would like to; after all, they think, these are only HASS-Ds. Given this type of attitude, is it any wonder that HASS-D professors complain that their students aren't really interested in the course material?

In fact, this general trend seems to at least be a contributing factor to MIT's constant alcohol "problems" and incidents. Namely, if people don't like their classes and stress themselves out only to get a good grade doing something that doesn't particularly interest them, is it any wonder that they will turn to a chemical substance such as alcohol to relieve some of their stress? Imagine, however, a student who loves every single one of the classes he or she is taking; would this student still feel the need to consume gargantuan quantities of alcohol? I severely doubt it.

Naturally, one must not take this idea to the other extreme. Sometimes it is inevitable that a class required for graduation will be really, really boring and completely uninteresting. And yet, one has to wonder if someone on 72 units really has the time to enjoy any of the classes he or she is taking, and what kind of consequences such a not-too-uncommon course load can lead to.

I have one more point to make. If you really do like most of the classes you are taking, then for God's sake, stop complaining!

Misha V. Koshelev is a member of the Class of 2002.