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Chemistry major protests criticism

Hey, I don't hate chemistry, either. As a matter of fact, I like the subject enough to major in it. I was therefore intrigued by Adam Kao's guest column ["On learning chemistry," Nov. 5], particularly by its consistent inanity.

First of all, in describing 5.11 as a class without unity and direction, he presents essentially the same criticism of this new course that I have heard about the more established 3.091 for more than three years. I hate to disappoint you and your classmates (as well as belabor the obvious), Mr. Kao, but you are required to take one of these courses to graduate, whether you like them or not.

Should we tell The Tech right now to expect perhaps a dozen letters from you over the next three-plus years, moaning about the latest class that doesn't hold you spellbound?

Consider what has happened to me in my MIT career. In 5.11's predecessor, 5.41, I was forced to memorize long lists of pKa's and bond energies, and yes, most of that class also lacked unity. Such is life with these freshman classes. During this term in 5.04 Inorganic Chemistry II, I was forced to memorize the location of all of the atoms in the Periodic Table.

Then there's 18.03 -- if you should ever stumble into that small class, Mr. Kao, be prepared to enter each exam brimming with several formulas and tricks. As for textbooks, in courses such as 5.03 Inorganic Chemistry I, 5.43 (Advanced) Organic Chemistry, 8.01, 8.02, 14.01, and 18.03, I have found the books to be somewhere in the dull to incomprehensible to worthless range.

Perhaps Kao is not aware (or is just too biased to concede) that 5.11 is only one-year old. Since I must readily admit that I am not familiar with 5.11's content or textbook, I will not take any position in defense of the department, but I do believe that Prof. Wrighton and Prof. Kemp deserve some input from the students, perhaps led by Mr. Kao, to help shape the future of the course.

He could even discuss revisions or possibly a change (yes, I know that Prof. Wrighton's name is on it) in the textbook. If that sounds absurd, it is worth noting that 8.01, 8.02, and 7.05 have used three different textbooks each since I've been here.

Well, Mr. Kao, since you want to learn to think like a chemist, and since model sets are so fun, please do us a favor and stay in 5.11. If you do this, you will be in a position to take 5.12, 5.13 and if you are adventurous, 5.43, in which you will be doing a substantial amount of thinking.

Your efforts would have been much more constructive in trying to improve the course rather than in mouthing off about its deficiencies to the entire community. If you are expecting perfection from every class, you may wish to consider a transfer, but surely you realize that you would be quite disappointed after not finding your utopian school.

James T. Someren '86->