When I was an undergrad about twenty years ago (brlewis, you were an undergrad then, too, right?), the Dean for Undergraduate Education was on record as saying “too many MIT graduates work for too many Harvard and Princeton graduates”, and the administration was retooling its admissions policy and curriculum so that the school wouldn’t have such a single-minded focus on training people to be brillant engineers.
Has the pendulum swung back since then?
They might also be trying to change MIT by attracting different students; as noted by sethg there was a strong push to change MIT from its traditional role of producing Sons of Martha who work for Sons of Mary, and it started a few years before he showed up (here is a fantastic rant by Hal Albeson on one of the early signs of that: http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/users/hal/papers/coop.html).
The Admissions Office even drastically changed its real admissions policy for a couple of years until the hard subjects (e.g. physics) faculty forced a correction of that. The admitted classes were overall having too much trouble with the core curriculum, but even if they were less capable on average they were still dedicated to the traditional MIT mission.
Self-selection by applicants is so strong (MIT survived for a dozen year without a professional as the Director), whatever gloss the Office is now putting on the Institute, it's able to change things only so much. E.g. MIT remains the a place where you don't graduate without taking (or placing out of) a year of the calculus and classical physics (taught at MIT speed), for all majors.
"Flocks of MIT engineers come over here," Metcalfe tells me, leading me up the back staircase at Beacon Street. "I love them, so I invite them. They look at this and say, ‘Wow! What a great house! I want to invent something like Ethernet.’" The walls of the narrow stairway are lined with photos and framed documents, like the first stock certificate issued at 3Com, four Ethernet patents, a photo of Metcalfe and Boggs, and articles Metcalfe has written for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
"I have to sit ‘em down for an hour and say, ‘No, I don’t have this house because I invented Ethernet. I have this house because I went to Cleveland and Schenectady and places like that. I sold Ethernet for a decade. That’s why I have this house. It had nothing to do with that brainstorm in 1973.’" He pauses for effect, as we arrive at his top-floor office. "And they don’t like that story."
Much of the top of my class seemed to find the "salesy" aspects of entrepreneurship dirty, and they wanted nothing to do with it.
As for Stanford & MIT I couldn't tell you.
Full disclosure: I did a tour in the Marines, found I couldn't get a civilian job, joined the Army for one more tour, and am now employed by a Fortune 500 company.
But frankly, the regular Army types who have gone on to distinguished political careers have been relatively few and not always distinguished as politicians: among presidents, Taylor, Grant, Eisenhower. To the extent that Army veterans, regular, reserve, or Guard, are more conspicuous, the disproportion in numbers must count for something.
We have to remember that there are major outside influences that are shaping these institutions, especially for Stanford, being in the eye of Silicon Valley.
Stanford doesn't seem to have suborganizations that are as externally visible as Media Lab and the like.
> We have to remember that there are major outside influences that are shaping these institutions, especially for Stanford, being in the eye of Silicon Valley.
I may be too close, but I don't see Stanford as being radical or innovative in its organization.
For some relevant comments by Stanford's current president see http://www.stanford.edu/class/ee380/Abstracts/100526.html and http://ee380.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/videologger.php?target=100...
"A Marine gets out and goes on his first job interview. The interviewer asks: 'I see you were a Marine. What did they train you to do?'. Marine answers: 'TO KILL PEOPLE SIR!'"
As with most universities, the opportunities are there, and your education is what you make of it.
As to Rebecca's comments on large-scale projects, when DARPA funding first dried up, the CS and AI Lab (CSAIL) turned towards industrial sponsors and pursued a vision of pervasive computing, incorporating advancements in networking, speech, and NLP. But there has been no shortage of recent DARPA sponsored large-scale projects (e.g. the DARPA Grand Challenge, command and control systems for urban search and rescue, semi-autonomous forklifts for war zone unloading).
Hmmm, where would we place their VLSI project (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VLSI_Project), which among other things according to Wikipedia supported BSD?
Robotics hardware is maturing rapidly, but the software algorithms for visual sensing, planning and manipulation aren't there yet. This is standing in the way of robots running (vs walking) efficiently, tidying up your cluttered desk, or taking care of our elderly.
Agreed 100%, and it's a difficult and worthwhile set of AI problems (just not ones I'm personally interested in :-). I have no trouble with the Grand Challenge given that the state of the art makes it practical, it's that other ... perhaps more foundational stuff is apparently being neglected. The stuff that's "wow!" in 10 years.
That said, I agree that smart people have a far better chance of being able to learn the other skills. But the difference between the two outcomes relies largely on the attitude the person has. So the culture they're trained in should somehow instill in them the importance of the wider array of skills, so that the individual will internally emphasize and strive to learn them.
Blowing things up and hacking on random projects :is to: MIT students ||
Starting a new business :is to: Stanford students
MIT folks also often use the word "Sloanie" (referring to someone in the business school) as a fairly derogatory term. (Though I guess this is a common view in general).
Here in the UK the Army's advertising is all about people who joined up and learned skills. I think the current one is about a girl who joined the Royal Signals and 8 years later she's an expert in "telecommunications" (it's an ad, so they're no more specific than that). By contrast the Royal Marines advertising is simple: "99% need not apply".
For everyone else, their skills are useless although pretty much everyone I outprocessed with were angstful stop-lossed guys wanting to go into law enforcement in their old towns.
Besides, the incentives are to keep people in the military, not train them to get out...so it's really either DC or bust.
I think the Army tries to pride itself on training people to get out ("Hey we pay for college, we help find you jobs when you are outprocessing!"), but the reality of the situation is that most of the Army isn't getting trained for their exit to the civilian world.
Anyway, I work in DC with a lot of army people (I am even typing this on an Army PC) and the biggest difference is Army people say I was a _ in the Army but the Marines just say I was in the Marines.
There are some formal, frequently with a small amount of credit, more serious courses that are taught during IAP, like 6.092 "Introduction to Programming in Java" or even (as captured by OCW in in 2009) 6.096 "Introduction to C++".
Note that while participants/targets have to agree to be in it, it is generally rewarded for poor preformance of one sort or another, e.g.:
1989 Gerald Sussman: for a really bad 6.002 term he taught.
1985 Shirley M. McBay: amazingly bad Dean for Student affairs.
1971 Ken Browning: Also a legendary Dean for Student affairs; a parody issue of the student newspaper was entirely dedicated to him. Although I don't know if he was indeed really bad, my only solid first hand info is from a member of a failing residential fraternity chapter.
If you scroll up to the other posts in that thread, it turns out to be a wider discussion about the role of MIT in research and the technology world overall, and in particular the claim that MIT was instrumental in solving a lot of the fundamental technical problems necessary for the Internet to work right, and that furthermore MIT was neutered in its ability to do such huge things by the cutoff of blue-sky DARPA funding in the early and mid 00's. And that, furthermore, a lot of the late-90's Internet boom in SV was dependent on MIT having solved these big fundamental problems, and that we should be worried that MIT is no longer doing things like this.
Rather outlandish, I'd say, but interesting, and at least worth talking about.
Exactly. Up until very recently, MIT's introductory programming class (6.001) had the students learn Scheme, not for the purpose of learning Scheme, but to teach them general principles about algorithms. Nowadays, I believe they're using Python for that purpose. If a student wants to learn C++ or Java (or God forbid, Fortran), they're expected to get up to speed on their own time.
Some time ago the software engineering course and I think the compiler course changed from CLU to Java.
Now, for undergraduates, that which is not use Python (e.g. AI) uses Java, like the course 6.005, "Elements of Software Construction". Or MATLAB for a lot of EE.
Other departments have always had field specific introductory computing courses that teach whatever's relevant today, e.g. based on a quick skim of OCW, Java for civil engineering, "FORTRAN, C, C++, MATLAB, and Mathematica" for Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Python for Biological Engineering, etc.
From what I've heard, in EECS after the post-dot.com enrollment crash the order came from on high that Scheme was to be terminated with extreme prejudice in the basic undergraduate curriculum.