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Why Are Certain PE Classes So Popular at MIT?

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of America’s top institutions of higher learning, with 58 National Medal of Science recipients, 96 Nobel laureates, 48 Rhodes Scholars, and 50 MacArthur Fellows among its faculty and alumni ranks. But all those science and engineering brainiacs like to have fun, too. For about 20 years, MIT students have pursued unofficial "Pirate Certificates" by taking classes in archery, fencing, pistol or rifle shooting, and sailing. In the past, these accomplishments were just for bragging rights. But in 2011, the university’s physical education department began issuing official Pirate Certificates -- printed on fancy faux parchment -- to those who completed classes in all four "pirate" disciplines.

Arrrrr, matey:

  • MIT says the certificate is an incentive for undergraduates to complete their Physical Education & Wellness General Institute Requirement. It also shows that the school has a sense of humor.
  • "In geek culture, there is a big pirates vs. ninjas war," said one MIT student. "I'm on the pirates side. I think pirates do a lot more. They do sword fighting, sailing, collecting treasure. All ninjas do is hide."
  • In 2016, actor Matt Damon was awarded an honorary MIT Pirate Certificate after he spoke at the school’s commencement. Damon’s character in The Martian referred to himself as a “space pirate.”
Discussion Comments
By anon1002799 — On Feb 19, 2020

This is wonderful! Made my day.

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