MIT is #1

In football rankings they’re not even on the map but in terms of educational ratings they’re now #1, according to this rating system.  MIT (aka, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is often on various lists in the top 10 but it’s rare for them to come out #1. The competition for that spot is formidable and in fact in this rating MIT just barely beats out Harvard and Cambridge (an interesting play on words that two U.S. universities in Cambridge, Massachusetts are often in the running against the University of Cambridge in England).

When I attended MIT there were high on these lists but never that close to the top which was frequently occupied by Harvard. I’m sure if anyone compiled all the ratings from all the lists since the 1960s Harvard would have the most #1 rankings. In the late 1960s there was considerable rivalry between MIT and Harvard (that is, MIT thought it was a rival to Harvard, Harvard almost declined to admit MIT even existed, but I still have a Harvard crew shirt I won which their rowers would not acknowledge their loss and sent their team manager to deliver the shirts, a huge breech in protocol, aka, they were sore losers).

Now what surprises me is how MIT gets so high given it still is so concentrated in science and engineering whereas Harvard and Cambridge and others are more diverse in subjects. It must be that the ratings in this time weighs the areas where MIT is strong more heavily than they used to be weighed to determine overall standings. I’m sure Harvard and its students still view MIT as the upstart, and the students as nerds whereas Harvards are so cool.

What many people don’t know is how close MIT came to being part of Harvard. I don’t have the exact facts (and don’t feel like looking them up, that exercise is left for the reader, as we used to say), but sometime in approximately 1930 range MIT was basically broke. Being short of funds to continue operating they looked for a merger and Harvard was willing to oblige, to turn MIT into Harvard’s engineering school. At the last minute an anonymous donor (later turned out to be George Eastman of Kodak fame) came through with enough money to keep the doors open and eventually MIT recovered. There is a large lecture hall, often used for tests, that has a brass plaque of this great donor and it was tradition to rub the nose for good luck in the tests and the most recent time, about five years ago, I visited that nose is still nice and shiny.

I consider myself very fortunate to have gone to MIT, especially at that time in history. I first have to acknowledge my debt to the Omaha public school system. Before I attended a high school here that was allowed to select its students I had been a mediocre (as measured by grades) student with minimum ambition toward any college. Fortunately my Omaha Central High School lit a fire in me, plus had other students that now found math and science “easy” and thereby provided competition to push me to better achievements, critical to gaining acceptance to MIT. But I was made for the type of program that MIT offered and gained a life long benefit.

So I’m pleased to see MIT has not only maintained high standards but actually seems to have increased its standing. It is also certainly better known today than it was in the 1960s. It was interesting that claiming degrees from MIT actually meant more to the people I worked with in China than it would mean to a random person (still in technical areas) here on the streets of Nebraska.

Education was a great gateway to a good life, both fulfilling and materially rewarding, and that’s part of why I hate to see the hostility toward education and also “smart” people by the Repugs, esp. the recent statements of Rick Santorum. The football players on the Huskers team are certainly top-rate and “elite”, but no one seems to resent them or want to tear them down. Entrepreneurs who have made large fortunes are certainly an “elite” but the Repugs worship them. But people that happen to be good at academics, whether the MIT “elite” or Harvard or Stanford or the many other fine universities in the U.S. are literally despised by the Repugs, in a country where technological achievement is the main factor for U.S. dominance – amazing.

But as any geeky kid in public school today knows it’s a bad thing to be smart. Being a good jock, being attractive, being rich – all get you admiration, but smart gets you harassed. It’s very strange that there is such hostility toward just another skill that has practical value to many. The article claims that if the businesses started by MIT grads were measured in total value that the MIT community would be the 11th largest economy in the world. That is admired by people who do these rankings; it is despised, despite their love of greed and money, by the Repugs – very strange.

Today higher education in the U.S. is thriving and possibly the one area where we’re widely recognized as being #1. Many countries, but esp. China, are attempting to emulate U.S. success in this area. But within our own country, at least by around half the population, this accomplishment is seen as a negative. Well, based on some limited data I have plus my own anecdotal observations the rednecks needed worry because the majority of the students in elite institutions is now from outside the U.S. So in this one area this is something other countries outsource to us. Too bad our own people don’t recognize the value of this fantastic resource.



About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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One Response to MIT is #1

  1. dmill96 says:

    In another survey MIT also came out #1 in starting salaries, not a surprise really given the distribution of degrees that are granted. What was surprising is the actual number, $69,700 which seems low to me.

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