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Conversation with an MIT  Professor
U.S. Higher Education: The Great Global Giveaway

The following private conversation occurred the afternoon of November 7, 1984 in the office of Mildred Dresselhaus, then a full professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Emphasis hers, bracketed explanatory comments added. An ellipsis indicates the speaker was interrupted, not that words are omitted.

QUESTION:  How do MIT professors justify training scientists and technicians who come here under the auspices of totalitarian governments, such as China, Korea, Bulgaria, etc?

PROFESSOR:  We do not spend all our time trying to justify what we do.  [Pause, perhaps realizing how peevish that sounded.]  I do not admit the students, I am a professor. I only teach.

QUESTION:  “I’m just doing my job”  covers a multitude of sins.

PROFESSOR:  [Taken aback.]  They admit them, I train them. Although I needn’t justify it – I am not a philosopher – the way the State Department justifies it is that they come over here, learn our ways. We become friends. They are our friends. They return home and it helps understanding. We do not teach military science.

QUESTION:  What you teach can be useful ...

PROFESSOR:  It is all in the open literature.

QUESTION:  Why don’t you admit Americans instead?

PROFESSOR:  Not as many apply as they used to. Lot’s of foreigners apply.

There was no point in talking any longer with this learnèd idiot.  Brief comments:

  •  Her response to the first question, that she doesn’t admit the students, was ingenuous. She was a full professor and would have been part of the admissions process for graduate students (though probably not for undergraduate). Note that she responded to the last question as if she knew what the people responsible for admissions were doing.

  •  She passes the buck to the State Department as if she need not think for herself. What the State Department approves makes a poor standard of the good.

  •  Directly or indirectly, all science, technology, and engineering can be put to military use.

  •  Personal friendship, real or feigned, doesn’t change the fact that the “friend” might work for an enemy.

  •  Even if all of what she teaches were in the open literature (a very dubious statement), still her teaching adds considerable value to that literature. Certainly the dictatorships think so.

  •  Setting aside that aiding dictatorships would be wrong even if the dictatorships paid for the aid, they in fact pay very little. The U.S. Treasury Department forces American taxpayers to heavily subsidize graduate education at MIT, which like many ostensibly private schools lobbys for and receives hundreds of millions of dollars in government grants. This of course is socialist thievery even when the recipient is an American – robbing Peter to pay Paul as the saying goes – and even more so when Paul is Raheem from Pakistan.