Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Harvard vs. MIT   posted by Razib @ 1/25/2006 03:52:00 PM

I was in Cambridge for a weekend, and I made up this saying (after consultation with friends who are grad students at Harvard and MIT):

Harvard students know how to seem smart
MIT students know how to be smart

And while I'm at it, I just thought of this:

Know the name of your enemy
But nothing else about them

Addendum: The point about Harvard vs. MIT wasn't that MIT students are endowed with a non-trivially higher quanta of general intelligence. What I was trying to get at is a point I was discussing with a friend of mine who admires the humanities, but is himself a physical scientist at MIT, one can make humanities majors difficult, but it is not a necessary corollary of that course of study. This was brought home to me when I was discussing grading with a friend who is an instructor at Harvard in a humanities field who expressed frustration at the bullshitting tendencies of his students. He wanted them to work harder and express real thoughts instead of what he assumed they assumed would get them the A with the lowest amount of effort. Being verbally exceptional and always expecting and getting the highest grades, there was a lot of pressure to give those grades out no matter the substance of the material (the impression I got is that the style and presentation were always top notch and reflexively produced). In contrast, in the sciences you either fail or you don't, you can't really bullshit your way out of solving a heat flow problem if you forgot your differential equations. The sciences, especially those requiring a lot of mathematics (physics, engineering, etc.), impose a floor of minimal competency which is capable of taxing normally bright individuals (i.e., ~140 IQ).