Osama bin Laden, stay out of Toledo

A suprisingly good 60 Minutes this week didn’t do any hard-hitting investigation, but had a nice report on Saddam’s finances followed by a fun report on SUVs. Fun, but not necessarily “balanced,” although I don’t know who they could have talked to representing the pro-Hummer crowd. I liked this report in particular because it looked at why people are obsessed with SUVs, instead of just stating that they are. Surpisingly, some of the reason could have to do with terrorism. SUVs make you feel strong, unconquerable, etc. Interesting.

The last report was about IIT Bombay, which they continued to just call “IIT” even though there are several branches…that was a bit confusing. Later they started talking about the rest of the IIT system. Anyway, this report on the India Institute of Technology, which Leslie Stahl compared to “Harvard, Brandeis, and MIT combined,” (no, just kidding, she said Yale), talked about the incredible workload on children hoping to go there and then getting in and then leaving India for more fertile grounds in America. There is a nationwide entrance exam and those who pass get their pictures in the paper.

One guy’s kid couldn’t get into the CS program at IIT, so he went to his backup school — Cornell.

Again I liked this report, because Stahl asked people why they were there and what they wre doing. There were some interesting revelations:

  • Everyone who goes to IIT knows that they are the best and were chosen to come, so they work hard — there is no “corruption,” as they called it, no greasing the wheels and no trust fund kids getting into the school. It is all based on the six-hour test that children will study for for 4 hours a day starting at the age of 10.
  • Students control a lot, from how the dormitories are run to sports teams to the cafeterias.
  • Basic engineering skills are essential and required, liberal arts are ignored.
  • Tuition is cheap, only about 1/5 the actual cost of attending — the Indian government picks up the rest.
  • Only 3000 people are accepted each year, in a country of 1 billion, so you can bet they better not disappoint.

The one word that describes these people is “driven.” When you know how hard it is to get into school, it becomes a much more precious commodity. Maybe we need more of that here…the difference here is that college is no longer a treasured priesthood, now it is required for everyone. I wouldn’t say that is a bad thing, things just happen differently here, and we don’t necessarily learn all that we should. And on that same note, we aren’t all laser-focused on engineering. There are other things in the world.

All that said, I’m impressed with what they are doing in India.