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Friday, December 14, 2007

Do IIT grads lack a conscience?

The renowned academic Martha Nussbaum gave an interview in Tehelka magazine two weeks ago, in which she said: "This IIT mentality - become technically competent engineers, forget about human values - is very dangerous, particularly for a country like India." In response, Salil Tripathi wrote an interesting piece, which appears in Tehelka today. As Salil says, "No, I didn't go to the IIT, but some of my friends are IITans :-)".


  1. want free publicity...three magical letters is all thats all that she might have had to say about her new book and Hindutva, its just the letters IIT that captures the journalist's fantasy.....

  2. To the nameless blogger, "do i really need a blog".... I've said many things about Martha Nussbaum (all positive about her book) in a review I did in the Independent (London) when the book came out. No need to repeat that: and she's wrong on this, though right about Hindutva. But that wasn't the point of that article.


  3. To Salil:

    You may be right, I don't know but the evidence you quote is merely anecdotal! Where's your control set? How many non-IITans perform exemplary work and is the proportion higher within or not?

    All I'm saying is its very dangerous to generalize from anecdotal evidence.

  4. Anon,

    Of course many non-IITans do exemplary work. It was Martha Nussbaum who posited the thesis, that the IIT mind-set is dangerous for India, and in her book, she tries to link technical education with dehumanization. It is for her to establish that case; my contrary examples are meant to show that her theory doesn't really hold up. Her book is primarily about Gujarat; and one of the best exposes about the heinous crimes in Gujarat were reported by an IIT grad; and the CM of Gujarat Modi, was not an IITan. (It doesn't mean massacres are overseen by non-IITans either). My point is exactly yours; generalizations are tricky; and one had expected better of someone like Nussbaum.


  5. Can conscience be taught? Human nature is shaped by born intrisics values, home, and neighborhood.

  6. well IIT surely thinks it can teach conscience.....we got a course in professional ethics

  7. Surprising thing about the original interview was the pass she gives to a context related to Gujarat, i.e., The anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Wonder why the Gandhi family esp. Rajiv Gandhi then (and now Sonia Gandhi) got a pass on that one.

    I suppose this is not about Prof Nussbaum alone but also her informants who seem to be by and large the Delhi intellectuals - yes, I know some people think the latter term to be an oxymoron :)

  8. I think there are plenty of Indians, if given the opportunity, who will leave the country and forget about her troubles. I myself don't live in India at the moment and I work for this social welfare organization - but when we try to get people interested in donating money or helping with India's troubles, very few people are interested. This is true as a general case and not only with IITians. However, the proportion of IITians going abroad is higher due to the opportunities they have and thus this attitude of people has become named an IITian mentality of leaving and forgetting. This does not mean that IITians are any better or worse in this regards. I think it is this attitude which Ms Nussbaum refers to and not specifically the IITians.

  9. 1. IITians are, on an average, considerably more successful. Maybe all of us need look inside ourselves to see if we generally lack conscience. But in any case a successful person is more visible and therefore more likely to be target of any comment.
    2. IITians become successful at much younger age than most. It takes time to develop "conscience" from a social-responsibility perspective.
    3. Those who believe working abroad means a lack of conscience need to wake up.

  10. Martha Nussbaum can come across all high and mighty because she's a Full Professor at the Univ. of Chicago.

    Why not ask her to donate half her salary to Indian welfare, or go work for a "government salary" in India?

    (Her Indian "conscience" is nothing more than payback for well-publicized open affair with Amartya Sen, her "mentor" when she was at Harvard.)

    Why shouldn't IITians behave in their own self interest?

    I want to see cogent reasoning on why they should be selfless not some waffling about "conscience" and "duty" and all that bullcrap.

    If the government finds the IIT burden onerous, it is free to charge a larger fee, or shut down the subsidies. Baring that, people will, and in fact, should exploit the system.

    -- Ruthless IITian (educated at the Univ. of Chicago)


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