MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXV No. 2
November / December 2012
Faculty MIT 2030 Task Force Report Clearly Identifies Key Issues
Report of the Task Force on Community Engagement in 2030 Planning on Development of MIT- Owned Property in Kendall Square
What Students Want From Faculty
Task Force on Community Engagement with 2030 Planning
Graduate Student Life, Research Productivity, and the MITIMCo Proposal
The Millenials@MIT: Discussions on the Generational Changes in the Graduate Student Population
The Office of Faculty Support:
What Can We Do To Help You?
Preparing for a New Industrial Revolution
MIT: First in the World, Sixth in the U.S.?
An Opportunity for Faculty to Help Shape MIT’s Remarkable Graduate Student Community
Faculty Committee Activity: Fall 2012 Update
Progress Report on the Bernard M. Gordon – MIT Engineering Leadership Program
The Alumni Class Funds Seek Proposals for Teaching and Education Enhancement
MITAC: Your Ticket to Cultural and Recreational Activities
Why We Need HumanitiesX
Campus Population FY 1981 – 2012
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Why We Need HumanitiesX


To The Faculty Newsletter:
I hope that humanities will be included in any edX course offerings. I was one of the first students to enroll in the UK's Open University (OU) when it first began in the 1970s. There was no online presence only specially prepared units, BBC TV and radio programs, textbooks, and a week's summer school. We were graded by mailing in our essays, computer marked assignments, and a final exam. I had practically no contact with other students and only met a tutor once when I could not understand how to write about “the lords and peasants during the 1848 revolutions.”

But the required foundation course in the humanities has had an enduring effect on my life. It gave me a love of learning, taught me about music, art, philosophy, and literature I could never have imagined, and far from being passive made me think and create work of my own. Even though the end degree made a huge difference to my career, learning does not always need to be career-focused or geared towards a credential.

As Professor Perry points out [MIT Faculty Newsletter, Vol. XXV No. 1], MIT faculty do not have the time to grade essays from thousands of online students, but I am sure this a problem that MIT can solve (possibly by forming online student groups similar to writing or reading groups). It is possible to prepare a test that can be graded by computer as this was done as early as the 1970s.

The point for the humanities is not really the credential. No employer is going to hire you for your essay or grade on Jane Austen. But an employer might well be glad to see that an individual is well-rounded and brings a humanities' perspective to their job.

Professor Perry asks: "For whose benefit are we developing online modules in the Humanities and why?" I would answer that an MIT quality humanities course could change the lives of students globally as much as Circuits and Electronics. Creating a course that is culturally diverse, that would have meaning for MIT residential students as well as students around the world, is challenging. The OU course materials were expensive to create, but given the materials now available through the Internet, the cost might not be prohibitive. I hope that a humanities course can be considered and made a priority. I believe it would as Professor Perry states, educate "people to be informed citizens in a genuine democracy and for enriching their lives." Democracy is slowly trying to build across the globe and an MIT humanities course would, I believe, make a difference.

Janet Wasserstein
Senior Associate Director
MIT's Office of Foundation Relations

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