Friday, February 15, 2008

I certainly hope that this is an exaggeration:
A Smith College professor is being hailed for devising a national model for re-engineering an undergraduate engineering program for women... which emphasizes context, ethics, and communication as much as formulas and equations.
As an engineer, I can tell you that while ethics and communication are important (but context - what's that even mean?), the reason we focus engineering curricula on equations rather than the squishy subjects is that there are so many scientific principles and equations we need to know.

Communications will not prevent a maritime disaster if the person doing the communicating doesn't know that one needs to pay attention to the ductile-to-brittle transition temperature of the hull material, and ethics won't stop an underdesigned bridge from collapsing. I had to work my a** off in order to fit my interests in non-engineering subjects in around all of the material that's necessary to be a good engineer. If you remove the focus of engineering from, well, engineering, you're not going to produce engineers. You'll produce people with a passing familiarity with what engineering does and is, but who are unqualified to do it themselves. I don't want someone who thinks engineering is about "context, ethics, and communication" designing my brake system... do you?


At 2/15/2008 1:01 PM, Blogger K. said...

RScrub, I know that you'll judge me for this, but by identifying the standard, male dominated issue with "hard" subjects and things that this new female-friendly program emphasizes more (like ETHICS) as "squishy" is only perpetuating gender bias. I mean, c'mon--male = hard, female = squishy? We both know that both genders are more complex than that. I'm sure that it's unintentional at least in your case, since you are a gentleman and a scholar, but it's still there.

Furthermore, the program is not taking the focus away from the traditional content matter from engineering. They're only balancing it with other important things--e.g., ethics.


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