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MITx certificates should be free of charge for the very poor

An article in the Dec. 6 issue of The New York Times notes that nearly half of the population of Bangladesh lives on less than one dollar per day.

About five (of 7.5) billion people in the world live at a sub-poverty level.

MIT should reach out to these very poor by allowing them to receive certificates if they pass MITx courses without charging them a penny.

This is a matter of ethics. By charging the very poor for certificates we would be strongly discriminating against them for the simple reason that they cannot afford it.

Charge those who can afford it. But let MIT set the gold standard by not charging the poor for certificates. MIT should lead with vision that lives up to its reputation.

I beg MIT to never charge the world’s poor for a certificate if they pass an MITx course. At the very least, I don’t want MIT to charge them a penny for a certificate if they pass one of my courses.

Walter Lewin
Department of Physics Professor Emeritus

Tackling our culture’s gun problem

There were armed guards on duty at Columbine, Fort Hood, and Virginia Tech. Once a loony is inside the school with an automatic weapon, being able to eventually kill him (or her, must be politically correct) just reduces the eventual body count. Most of them kill themselves anyhow when they’re about to run out of ammo.

Newspapers don’t give a lot of space to the copycat aspect of these tragedies. What kind of a person would read about a school massacre and say, “God, wouldn’t that be cool?”

A question that answers itself.

Schools actually are pretty safe, statistically. Only two percent of homicides of school-age children occur in school. Dear old dad is more likely to kill you than some wacko off the street.

Which is no answer.

Having been shot both in combat and as a civilian, I have a victim’s right to an opinion.

If I were a parent, I’m not sure what I would do. The argument that school shootings are really very rare might not convince me — a lot of our fears are irrational, but nevertheless real. (Real as pi, you might say.) A private school is about six grand a year. Home schooling is even more dear, in a different currency. But those venues do buy your children security.

A lot of magical thinking, or lazy thinking, obscures the problem. “If all teachers were armed, the problem would go away” … but aren’t there one or two teachers in your memory who were scary enough armed with just a ruler? And don’t you remember a couple of hard guys who had to rebel against the teacher no matter what? Their testosterone is not going away just because the State has raised the ante. (“Dr. Haldeman talks big, but he’s just a pussy … he’d never use that gun … watch this … ”)

Of course, enveloping the whole problem is the genie that will never go back into the bottle: America is saturated with guns and ammunition, and no politician who tries to take them away stays employed.

It’s the snake eating its own tail, but growing so fast it will never be consumed.

Joe Haldeman
Comparative Media Studies
Adjunct Professor