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Readers Join the Discourse

In the past two months, readers weighed in on demographic challenges in Asia, personal pronouns, Bitcoin and more

Image Credit: Gabriël Metsu, Dutch (1629–1667), “Man Writing a Letter” / Wikimedia Commons

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Live and Let Live

Pronouns—can you guess mine? I think you could. I work for a midsize company of mostly professionals, and I once had my preferred pronouns as part of my email signature. And then I thought, “Why?” There is no reason for it. You see my name, my photo—it’s obvious.

There was a time, not so long ago, that it might have been an issue. Being transgender and transitioning while working for the same company the whole time—people didn’t know me as Tina, and I had a long way to go to really look the part. But most people were kind and respectful of what I was doing, even if they couldn’t understand it. I was careful to avoid taking offense when none was meant. I did ask for, not demand, some accommodations that I felt I needed. But I never wanted to make people uncomfortable if I could avoid it.

I stopped including my preferred pronouns in my email signature when I decided that if you couldn’t tell, you just weren’t trying, and you never wanted to get it right. I can live with that side of it. Not everyone can live and let live. But I appreciated every kind word, every door that was opened for me, every time people understood that all I wanted was to live my life with dignity.

I saw this article (“Can You Guess My Preferred Pronoun?” by Charles Lipson) and thought to myself that I could have written it, but not with the same eloquence. It’s people like Mr. Lipson that make my life just a little easier, not the activists and allies that push for more than people are ready to accept, no matter how well intentioned.

— Tina, Denver, Colo.

India’s Population Growth Causes Challenges

Eberstadt’s thought-provoking article on Chinese demographic challenges (“The China Challenge: A Demographic Predicament Will Plague the Mainland for Decades”) is also relevant to my country, India. We too will have to deal with an aging population, resource constraints and public health system challenges, which have become extremely more complicated after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rate of population growth is under effective control in some states of the Indian Union, but in some States, this is not so. I think it will take some time to assess the exact demographic impact of our government’s past and current efforts to control the population growth rate.

Rapid urbanization and the consequent shift to nuclear families have resulted in many changes to the way we look at the traditional family bonds, which are slowly but surely weakening. I think China and India, two Asian countries, are facing some similar challenges in certain areas, but in the case of China, its rulers’ ambition to make China the number-one superpower may lead it into uncharted territories.

— Narendra, Pune, Maharasthra, India

In Defense of a “Proof-of-Work” Model for Bitcoin Mining

In “Should Central Banks Offer the Public Token-Based Digital Currencies?” (June 8, 2021), Nikhil Sridhar and Patrick Horan write, “A proof-of-work model could also be costly to implement. Bitcoin mining takes up approximately 121.36 terawatt-hours a year, which is roughly equivalent to the annual power consumption of the entire nation of Argentina.” This claim suggests proof-of-work has no benefit to offset the cost. Yet Bitcoin mining is so costly precisely because it has a built-in barrier to discourage fraud. This mechanism is what allows the system to be decentralized and run smoothly by countless unnamed miners. Despite the benefits decentralization could have, if CBDC mining is controlled directly by central banks, Bitcoin’s proof-of-work cost is less likely to exist in a CBDC since miners would be supervised, or “permissioned.”

— Nicholas, Woodbridge, Va.

An Experience with Tracking

This letter is responding to “Is Tracking Students by Ability Too Much Government and Too Little Education?” by Cara Marcano. In 1999, my 30th year of public school teaching, my school district decreed all ninth-grade students would take Algebra I. One of my classes, which in previous years would have taken general mathematics and participated in afternoon jobs, began with exponential equations, a very challenging topic for beginning algebra. I carefully prepared our first quiz, making up form A and form B to catch those with wandering eyes.

Before I returned the graded quizzes, I asked the students how many of them had ever made an A or B in mathematics. None had. Yet almost everyone made an A! They were as surprised as I. As the year continued, they continued to succeed. During their high school years, some found me to share their success with more advanced mathematics. One even made it through calculus before graduation.

I realized that tracking lowered the teachers’ expectations and lowered what the students believed about themselves. I came to believe that all of us are born with gifts. Together the students, with the assistance of their teachers, discover that gift, nurture it into fruition and give it to the world.

— Nancy, Melrose, Fla.

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