May/June 2023Vol.XXXV No. 4

Commentary on “Never Mind the Firehose, You Can’t Even Lead Them to Water”

Lauren Carethers

To The Faculty Newsletter:

This article was very upsetting for me to read.

I think it makes vast assumptions about the character and intellect of MIT’s student body without the support of thorough research. The author applies their experiences in a singular class over the entire student body, and seems to use this experience to demean the very people they are tasked with instructing. If they believe that student engagement is a real issue, why not take the time to interview and engage with the students involved instead of insulting them? They also write that “the lectures are clear and engaging,” but fails to recognize two things here: 1) as a co-instructor, I’m sure their ability to understand and pick up on the material provided by the other co-instructor is quite high given their likely previous exposure with the subject material; and 2) their ability to process the material within the lecture may not be universal due to previous subject exposure, their learning method, and their brain chemistry (i.e., neurodivergence may affect someone’s ability to engage with, process, and understand information in different formats). I’m unaware of their brain chemistry, but at least given their likely difference in education level from the students they are evaluating, using their own experience as a benchmark is simply and undoubtedly bad research practice.

As a student, I would much prefer an instructor who, instead of demeaning their students and creating an environment of disapproval, gets to know and respect them and actively works with them to improve a class’s material and structuring. To me, this individual is not only clearly disengaged from the student body, but violates MIT’s values. I can not believe the individual even had the audacity to write that “over half of our admitted undergraduates are occupying seats that were denied others that would have longed to benefit from them.” Way to make students feel even more ostracized in an environment that already loves to reinforce to them that they are not enough. Need I remind them that one of MIT’s core values is Community, under which is written “We actively work to create a caring, compassionate, healthy, and safe environment that enables all community members to thrive