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Slocum distills debate on curricular change

Alexander Slocum performed his poem, "Free the Endorphins!" at the Nov. 29 faculty meeting.

In his introduction, the MacVicar Faculty Fellow noted, "This poem is the author's attempt to distill many opinions he has heard and things he has observed. It is a dynamic poem meant to get folks to think. If you feel strongly about something and you think the poem should evolve, please do not throw stones at me through the office window. Please open the window and invite me to tea to chat." Slocum has also noted, there is a hidden message in his text.

Free the Endorphins!

Yeah I come to MIT with a yearning
Given I have a passion for learning
Granted I am the best of the best
Forget about herding me with the rest

My parents pay a lot of money
To send me to the land of geeks and honey
So even though I might think I know what I want to do
Excellent advising is what I most need to shepherd me through

Kindle a fire in my belly for all kinds of physics and not just a few magic tricks
Succulent applications make me yearn to learn and not just for kicks
Quell apathy with engineering, scientific and artistic advances and applications in math
Tantalize me with problems from the subatomic to a forming universe's wrath

Perhaps of most fundamental importance is chemistry
Love can inspire me to erase its mystery
Verily show how biology is the key to all life
Teach us with passion and we will learn it to help end the world's strife

Love can make the GIRs all run like a thoroughbred horse
Fun problem-solving sessions should be led by all departments for each and every course
Kindly cross pollinate GIR teachers from within each and every school
Now I will be able to make a better decision about where to tool

And when I am in a class and getting bored
It does no good to threaten me with a grading sword
Instead empower and motivate me with a financial aid UROP
Knowledge with a purpose can reap a whole new super geek crop

Nothing may broaden the mind like the arts, social sciences and humanities
Assuredly they can teach us to better understand our parts, compliances and vanities
Yea they are not supposed to be like 18.02 or 8.01
Kaleidoscopic creative class productions are the real keys to learning and fun

Kindly entice us to think in many a bold and creative new way
Good thoughts can make the world better each day
Each and every course must teach us to have compassion
But not just what happens to be in fashion

Extra endorphins are the keys to enhance the rigor of many a HASS course
Then to really make our minds pull like a draft horse
Aid us in our analysis of real complex problems and solution construction
Have us show it all with a giant FreshX created theatrical production

Unflinchingly a FreshX course can sing the praise of renewable energy at $2/watt
Making electric power for the U.S. may seem like a lot
Actually it can cost less than a big misguided war
Now is the time to sing "imported oil no more!"

Eudemonism teaches us to create happiness and not hate
Now then empower us to truly and deeply think and create
Deliciously enlighten and challenge us to think of how to better live
Onward for humanity we will most certainly give

Really we truly thank the committee for their seemingly thankless job
Page after page the report made our hearts pound and throb
Happily we the enlightened see it not as just a simple list
It is actively a very powerful catalyst

Now it does not mean that the faculty will have to spar
For it can even leave the GIR requirements as they are
Rightly the committee's fine work has opened our eyes
Especially true, it really should be no surprise

Do let us strongly consider Winston's call for a really BOLD policy change
Optimally let's work together to examine Ely's creative solutions' range
Mesters of 7 weeks length could allow for many more GIR courses to be taken
Rendering students' curiosity and confidence stirred and not shaken

Indeed we can also start better teaching now
Graciously free the faculty to figure out how
Heartily provide each one with more time and $25K/year of money
Trust them and they will make GIRs as sweet as honey

Now is the time for the GIRs to begin their evolution
Original creative thinking can prevent bitter interdepartmental revolution
Wisdom will guide us to rationally implement GIR morphins
It's time to free the endorphins

-- Alexander Slocum (S.B. 1982), professor, mechanical engineering

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 6, 2006 (download PDF).

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