One of the reasons it is worth paying $1 million for a 100-year-old sagging fixer-upper starter home in Cambridge is that you run into interesting people. At a sandwich shop yesterday I encountered a friend who is a professor of Architecture. His companion asked what I was teaching this semester. “Intro circuit theory for sophomore electrical engineering majors,” was my response, “Inductors, resistors, capacitors, transistors, op-amps, feedback, impedance method.”
He was taken aback. “Why not teach something more practical?” Like what? How to build a TV? “No, I meant something more advanced and specialized, like a graduate seminar.”
I thought about it for awhile and said “Undergrads are fun to be around. They’re always in a good mood. For the average person, the likelihood that they’ll be in a bad mood is directly proportional to their age.” I asked the architecture prof to concur: “Aren’t your students in a better mood than the average working architect?” He concurred and said that in fact he has noticed that when he teaches undergrads they are happier than the grad students that he usually teaches.
At first glance you’d expect college students to be unhappy. They’re adolescents. They don’t know what they want or what makes them happy. But on second thought maybe undergrads do have a lot of reasons to be happy. They don’t have any aches or pains because their bodies are so young. They don’t have to worry about money because their parents send it to them. They don’t have to call the plumber or electrician because the university maintains their dorm. They don’t have to take their car in for service because they don’t have a car. The last two points free them to read interesting books, watch movies, play video games, indulge in sex and drugs, etc.