The Technion and the American concept of “Loser” and “Winner”

The Technion in Haifa, Israel, where I studied for my Bachelor of Science degree, is overall a fine institute to study in, but it has several problems. One problem is that it is “90% work / 10% play” instead of say “70% work / 30% play”, because there’s a strong discipline to study and only that. But an even graver problem is the fact that the faculty prefer the scores of their tests to be an approximate normal distribution (or Gaussian) which makes many people who studied hard frustrated at their low grades. A better strategy would be to give a solid workload during the semester, and then to have a relatively easy test, so people who studied hard during the semester will easily pass with a high score, while the slackers will still fail.

It seems like there's a similar problem with MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), but whereas in MIT they have a major problem with suicides of people who had straight A's in high school and became C average students in MIT., I have yet to hear of a Technion student who committed suicide because of low grades. Why? Because Israelis don't have the obsession which Americans have, about not being a “loser”. Technion students know best to realise that their low grades are not their own fault, but rather the fault of the institution's general policy.

I received some flak due to this. One Technion professor (who graduated from MIT) once asked me why my grade average was relatively low. I told him I had better things to do with my time, and did not want to invest the much extra time in getting perfect scores, and that I never took a course or a test again if I got a passing grade (no matter how low). I spent many hours during my Technion years, working on my Internet web site, and on open source software, interacting with my fellow students, browsing the web for information and knowledge, etc.. All these later on provided fodder for my works of fiction, humour and philosophy. So I knew that I was right in trying to enhance my general skill-set instead of just my grades.

Some Americans may think I’m a “loser” for finishing with an average grade of only 84.6% (which still made me a cum-laude student), instead of one in the high 90s, and not being able to persist in the same job for a long time since. But I’m not competing like an Olympic athlete at some track race on life. Life is meant to be enjoyed - it is not a silly race.