I, like every other faculty member that I have spoken to, would like to thank the Task Force for their heroic efforts over the last two years, culminating in the Task Force report. In perhaps the most crucial area, they have provided the faculty with a valuable insight. Specifically, the Task Force has concluded that our current GIR structure is too rigid. They, therefore, attempted to introduce some flexibility into the structure, which is a step in the right direction. Even so, in my opinion they do not go far enough.
The basis for this opinion follows from two observations made over many years of teaching at MIT.
A more revolutionary approach to introduce flexibility into the GIRs to address the problems raised above is the following. Separate the GIRs into two groups. The first group represents the freshman year GIRs and these will be taken by all entering MIT students. The second group divides into two subgroups: (1) a “balanced program” which is very similar to that proposed by the Task Force, and (2) a “technically intensive program” that focuses on mathematics, science, and engineering. A similar “humanities intensive track” could be added but, because of my own lack of HASS educational experience, I will leave this to my HASS colleagues. Click here for a simple representation of the structure.
Observe that subgroup (2) represents the “nerd” track. The overall number of GIRs is 17 for both tracks. There is some, but not a lot, of flexibility within either track. The main flexibility lies in the fact that there are two distinctly different tracks. Within the technically intensive program, students graduate with 11 more math, science, and engineering subjects than in the present system. This is equivalent to a full additional year of technical subjects and should put these students in an excellent position to compete on day one in any graduate school of their choice.
The problems raised have thus been addressed. The details of implementation clearly would require a huge amount of discussion, but at this point are not the main issue. The primary question I pose to you is whether or not a two-stage GIR structure, as described above, is a worthwhile approach to pursue.
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