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A Voice from Across the Atlantic

Reality of the Situation

By Jeremiah Yu

The sun has emerged from behind the clouds every day this week and it is rumored that it will only get sunnier and warmer from here until the end of exam term.

I grabbed the chance to enjoy today’s sunshine and walked around the immaculate grounds of my college (Girton). Girton is peculiar when it comes to Cambridge colleges. It is the only college, according to my knowledge, that actually allows students to walk on the grass. The English have a disturbing affection for their grass.

As I walked, I realized how fortunate I was to be where I was. The weather was warm, the sky was blue, and the grass was green. Imagine walking around fifty-four acres of lush green lawns and apple orchards.

While appreciating the serenity and beauty of this experience, I thought of what I would be doing if I were back at MIT. Two thoughts quickly came to mind: I would either be working or worrying about work.

Before going on any further, I should clarify that I do not spend my entire day walking in gardens. Cambridge is a school that demands hard work and intelligence. However, work time is for work and other times are not for work. This attitude allows Cambridge students to enjoy a day like today guilt-free.

MIT students on the other hand, I feel take a much unhealthier view toward work. It is seldom to find an MIT student who can enjoy a moment without thinking of work. Even those who actually want to break out of such a mentality feel they can’t because everyone else keeps on working.

Even to more of an extreme, many MIT students derive a sense of fulfillment and pleasure from excess amounts of work. The stress of work is a like addictive narcotic. Students delude themselves into thinking that unless they have two all-nighters a week, somehow they are not working enough. We live from problem set to problem set, a vicious cycle that does not break until we graduate.

Of course, this cycle is a complete lie. It’s like a bad dream. Imagine an army of young, intelligent, able-bodied students brainwashed to take pleasure from unhealthy excess amounts of work. That image is reality at MIT. Hard work is one thing; killing ourselves is another. It is masochism in its purest form.

We somehow think that MIT was made great because of the hours that were spent working. While the world sleeps, MIT students keep tooling. However, I believe the real reason for MIT’s reputation is our raw ingenuity and spirit of risk-taking. I think the more needless hours we work, the more it is too our detriment.

I contend that we can accomplish and learn the same material with a lot less effort. I’ve seen it at Cambridge, and I know what I have learned in quantity and quality of education in a more efficient manner. In light of this observation, what does that indicate about MIT? Are we so lacking the smarts that we need extra hours of work to maintain a comparable education? I doubt this. Rather, I believe we have created a system in dire need of evaluation and change.

MIT projects an image to the world of excess amounts of work and intelligence. In fact, this idea is constantly reinforced in us. We are told that employers automatically recognize an MIT degree for being a signal of hard work and intelligence. Great. Employers will know that we can work hard, and we are pretty bright. Because of so much time spent on class work, I believe that these two qualities are all we can boast of, when we as MIT students have so much more to offer.

For a place that prides ourselves on efficiency, we are not being very efficient. We have to stop thinking just of pure output. We really should also consider output per hour. Taking this into consideration will reveal that MIT is behind.