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MIT student blogger Laura N. '09

Keep it simple, stupid by Laura N. '09

I try to choose classes for the fall. Things get messy.

Yes, I’ve read a bunch of books since my last post. No, I didn’t feel like writing about them. I’ll be back at school soon, where I’ll actually have cool things to talk about. I’m sure you’re all excited. In the meantime, here’s my latest MIT-induced headache:

So I had this semi-epiphany where I kind of sort of maybe started thinking about majoring in 2A tailored for robotics. I started trying to re-work my fall schedule.

I had this big list of about 10 different class combinations and had narrowed it down to a select few. My ideal schedule looked something like this:

2.001- Mechanics and Materials
6.081- Intro to EECS
8.033- General Relativity
24.900- Intro to Linguistics

Only, as it turns out, 6.081, 8.033, and 24.900 are all at the exact same freaking time. I’m not even joking. Of all of the hundreds (thousands?) of classes offered at MIT, three of the four I picked all have the same schedule. This kind of sucked, and opened up the floodgates of my hatred for those stupid HASS requirements.

On the plus side, this led to a really funny conversation where I tried to explain all of this to my mom. “Well, see I really wanted to take 24.900 because not only am I interested in the subject, but it fulfills two HASS requirements at once. On the other hand, it is offered every semester, so it’s not too big of a deal if I don’t take it now. I’d love to take 8.033 because I’m really interested in it and I may minor in that subject, but it’s not a priority. The only thing is that it’s only offered in the fall, so if I don’t take it now I’ll have to wait until next year. At the same time, 6.081 is an experimental class, so it’s a complete wildcard, but given my new ideas about what I want to do with my life, it may or may not be required for my major.”

Mom: “So take 24.900, it fulfills all the requirements.”
Laura: “Yeah but I can just take it next semester so that may not be the best option.”
Mom: “So take 8.033, if it’s only offered once a year.”
Laura: “Well I may not even need that class, it’s not required for anything I’m actually doing as of right now.”
Mom: “Well screw that, take that one that starts with a 6 then.”
Laura: “Listen, it’s not as simple as you just telling me what to take, ok?”
Mom: “Hey Laura?”
Laura: “Yeah?”
Mom: “Could you just tell me what these classes are?”

The bottom line of the story is that I originally had about ten options. After narrowing it down to two or three, I realized there was a conflict, so I had to redo it. Now I’m up to 17 combinations. I exaggerate, of course. Well, there technically are 17 different possible combinations at this point, but that’s because I have seven HASS classes I’m considering and haven’t narrowed it down yet. Of course, I do have it broken down into categories- those which fulfill a distribution requirement, those which fufill a communications requirement, those which will help towards one concentration I’m considering (writing), and those which will count towards the other concentration I’m considering (theater arts). This would all be so, so much simpler if only the HASS requirements weren’t so *!?$%^! stupid. Arrr.

One really cool thing I stumbled across was 21M.604J. Take note, useful information here: the “J” at the end of the subject number indicates that this class is exactly the same as a class in a different major. Basically, 21M.604J = 21W.754J. It’s a class in playwrighting, which means that it can count towards a concentration in either writing or theater arts, which is really cool considering I haven’t actually chosen between these two yet. =)

In any case, it’s getting complicated.

Here are the HASS classes I’m thinking about:

17.20: Introduction to the American Political Process (HASS-D, CI-H)
Studies American government, emphasizing the institutions of government and the representation of competing interests. Topics include the founding, constitutional interpretation, legislative processes, presidential power, public opinion and voting, group mobilization, political steering of the bureaucracy and the economy, and federalism.

17.30: Making Public Policy (HASS-D, CI-H)
Examines how the struggle among competing advocates shapes the outputs of government. Considers how conditions become problems for government to solve, why some political arguments are more persuasive than others, why some policy tools are preferred over others, and whether policies achieve their goals. Investigates the interactions among elected officials, think tanks, interest groups, the media, and the public in controversies over global warming, urban sprawl, Social Security, health care, education, and other issues.

17.50: Introduction to Comparative Politics (HASS-D, CI-H)
Examines why democracy emerges and survives in some countries rather than in others; how political institutions affect economic development; and how American politics compares to that of other countries. Reviews economic, cultural, and institutional explanations for political outcomes. Provides detailed examination of politics in the US, Germany, Italy, Mexico, and Iraq, with less detailed discussion of other countries in different regions of the world.

21M.600: Introduction to Acting
Explores the actor’s tools: body, voice, mind, imagination, and the essential self. Through studio exercises, students address issues of honesty and creativity in the theatrical moment, and begin to have a sense of their strengths and limitations as communicating theatrical artists. Provides an opportunity for students to discover their relationship to “the other” in the acting partner, the group, the environment, and the audience.

21M.604J/21W.754J: Playwriting I
Introduces the craft of writing for the theater. Through weekly assignments, in class writing exercises, and work on a sustained piece, students explore scene structure, action, events, voice, and dialogue. Examine produced playscripts and discuss student work. Emphasis on process, risk-taking, and finding one’s own voice and vision.

21M.611: Foundations of Theater Practice
Introduces the ideas, skills, and aesthetic issues which comprise the creation of the theatrical event. Guest artists and faculty members introduce the work of different disciplines such as directing, stagecraft, design, acting, dramaturgy, and criticism. Readings, in-class exercises, and scheduled work in design and/or performance studios help students understand and experience the basic creative impulse in each area. Each student develops a portfolio of analysis and research.

21W.755: Writing and Reading Short Stories
Introduction to the short story. Students write stories and short descriptive sketches. Readings from European and American stories from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Class discussion of students’ writing and of the assigned stories in their historical and social contexts.

What do you think?

12 responses to “Keep it simple, stupid”

  1. Mollie says:

    My friend Seve took 21M.604J, and now he’s in an MFA program in screenwriting at USC. True story.

    Anyway, I remember him doing a LOT of writing for that class, so caveat scholar, or whatever.

  2. thekeri says:

    Foundations of Theater Practice!

    Okay, I’m just saying that because I might be in that. Or 24.900.

    Actually, go for 21M.604J. Playwriting is awesome.

  3. Drew says:

    Yeah, Playwriting I sounds good.

  4. madmatt says:

    I only took one of those classes as a student, 21M.600. It was certainly the most fun (not most interesting, not most stimulating, but definitely *fun*) class I took at MIT.

  5. Sarab says:

    No clue!

    Any one know if the Earth’s North Magentic and Geographic poles are in the same hemisphere or not?

    My teacher says they are and that the field lines run from South to North for this one, but i seem to remember they were opposite.

    University Physics wasn’t too clear about that. Help???


    [email protected]

  6. Sarab says:

    No clue!

    Any one know if the Earth’s North Magentic and Geographic poles are in the same hemisphere or not?

    My teacher says they are and that the field lines run from South to North for this one, but i seem to remember they were opposite.

    University Physics wasn’t too clear about that. Help???


    [email protected]

  7. Dude, I took 21M.611 last term and it was _totalllly_ amazing. TAKE IT. IT AND 6.086. DOOOO EEEET

  8. Just thought I’d mention that I sit in on 21m.600 during our CPW (with Sean! haha) and it was fun, if not incredibly quirky.

  9. Aziz '10 says:

    LoooL it’s funny that the first 3 classes you listed were exactly the same or very similar to my first 3 HASS-D Choices ;p So pick one of them, we might end up in the same class wink But sorry i can’t give you input about the others, I’m not really into that stuff, sorry ;(

  10. Melis says:

    Hurray for deciding to be 2A! Welcome to the club! I’ve taken 2.001 and 24.900, who’s teaching 2.001 this year? 24.900 is a blast (so interesting and relevant), I hope you like it!

  11. Anonymous says:


    You do realize that General Relativity is a very advanced physics course.