24 Feb 1971 / Politically Inconsistent?
February 25, 1971
Regular readers of this column should have noticed over the first few weeks of this term a lack of a certain something. They may have noted a dearth of garbled sentences and confused syntax, even unto a lack of what had previously been a veritable plethora of parenthetical phrases, which had been the style for which (Among other things) this column was both known and liked (or disliked, as the case may be). It turns out that the pressures of the second term weighed heavy on my mind, as did several bouts with the creeping jungle virus. I plead guilty to a bit of mechanical writing in the past two issues then, as we here in the ERGO office have been whipping things into shape for another term of service to the MIT community (and ourselves). Of course the service is in exchange for value received: Our advertisers receive the value of your patronage, and we receive the value of your exposure to a set of ideas that would in all probability, not normally be exposed.
Of all the criticism that has been leveled at this column (and there has been a great deal), that which I find most revealing is the charge that "A Column on Things" is politically inconsistent (something akin to treason in objectivist circles); with itself, and with the rest of the paper (or the rest of the world for that matter). I AM NOT AN OBJECTIVIST. My political beliefs are an amalgam of all the political thought that I have done or been exposed to for my 18 years, and I do not now accept another's political philosophy lock, stock and barrel. I will always adapt my philosophy to my own view of the world, and within a stretched definition of "consistent" or "logical", apply that personal philosophy individually to each situation I encounter in a most consistent and logical way Some of my views are close to those of the current management of this pape r (only partially due to the fact that I am part of the current management); they are not identical. Does that make my effort worthless? Don't read it if you think so.
Now some people contend that reason, logic and the objectivist political philosophy lead to only one "Real, correct" view of art, exemplified by romanticism in all forms of artistic expression. I like romantic music; I like romantic art and photography: I also like other styles. There are rational reasons for this opinion (I'll spare you the gory details). All you need to know about me is that my reviews and articles spring from a unique base: my own. I favorably reviewed the "Earth, Air, Fire and Water" exhibit (for example) because it used technology (which I consider to be basically beautiful) to make beautiful abstractions of its basic principles. So much for art and me.
Now let's call our memories. Ah, but what? They don't take kindly to insults you know...
The Independent Skiing Period is over now, and of course, in spite of some rumors to the contrary, the students of MIT are human. With the normal tremendous pressure to attend to their "academic" development temporarily lifted, chances are that nearly two or three undergraduates took advantage of the opportunity to attend to their personal development (that is, their development into real people as opposed to whatever it is that MIT turns out). The rest of the students used the hiatus, I'm sure, for some well earned R&R, or perhaps as a chance to pick up a little extra bit of money. If you consider the good news delivered just before finals week by the Finaid office, the lastidea is probably the best of all. Assuming of course that continued presence at MIT with a minimum of debt is desirable.
Too many scoffed, I thin, at the idea of relaxing and enjoying IAP. Some of those in power will no doubt consider the experiment a failure (as will some students) if the upcoming statistical extract now being prepared does not show that most of the students participated in the academic options which were made available. This is utter rot, and very similar to saving "This experiment will he a failure if the students do not react to the free situation in the same way they react to the normal nominally free situation." If the tools of the 'tute did not just pretend that IAP was 4 weeks of a normal term, if they "voted with their feet" against the standard MIT environment, I would hope that the gesture will he analyzed as a failure of the MIT system rather than as a failure of the IAP concept. It is my own feeling that this is probably the major thing which the IAP could show us: Is the MIT student in general satisfied with the way things are? If the pressure was really off, would lie continue to attend classes as the now exist? Or as they were modified over IAP?"
Some aspects of the usage in my column this week should be clarified to avoid misunderstanding. I realize that classes, as they occurred during IAP are not the same as those which occur during a term. And 1 know that there is no overt pressure during the regular term to attend an class, with the exception of PE.
Most students however, myself included, cling to the concept of attending class as a method of having knowledge imparted to us. The student who is here with the serious intent of graduating from this institute of technology can certainly be in non-attendance of many of his classes without serious penalty, if he exercises reasonable caution. So the question of pressure to attend classes is still valid, context considered. To conclude, let us consider the argument which yie1ds weight for many; "IAP was still part of the first term you know. You're paying tuition for it, you might as well learn something". This of course implies that the only wav to learn something is to learn it in the classrooms of MIT. I, for one, am a firm believer in the old saying "Half of your education takes place outside the classroom." Learning to Ski is just as much learning as learning Calculus, and for the most part, is quite a bit more enjoyable.