Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ladies' Engineering

I've said many times that some people want to pollute K-12 math and science classes with politically-correct tripe because there's no immediate harm, plus there's the benefit of having an indoctrinated student. I've long asserted that no one would do such a thing in university engineering courses, though, because no one wants the airplace to fall out of the sky or the bridge to fall down.

Sadly, I was wrong.

The update to that linked post gives some possible explanations about how "fuzzy engineering" might be a net positive, and I'm sure that'll be some comfort to people as they tumble off the bridge into the water.


Anonymous said...

Being an electrical engineer, sadly I can say that the meaning of engineering has been "dumbed down" over time. Not necessarily by Colleges and Universities but by industry itself.

Chris A

Loni said...

I go to Smith, the school that this link is criticizing, and I want to start out by saying that this school is not some pansy oasis for girls who can't hack it in a man's world. It's hard. Of all the private colleges in the country, our average work load is second only to MIT. Smith ranks as the 16th best liberal arts college according to Newsweek's last report. We are "most selective" and we produce amazing graduates.

As for the engineering program, the shared emphasis placed on communication and writing skills is not "politically correct tripe" nor is it in any way "fuzzy". The program is still strongly based in math and science; those who pursue the major have to fulfill classes in other disciplines in addition to the intense engineering courses. This major crams a five-year program into four.

The program is very well respected by graduate schools and engineering firms, otherwise they wouldn't offer the deals they do to Smith graduates. It is very difficult to get that 3.5.

This blogger puts forward the idea that women need a squishy curriculum in order to study engineering. He wonders how Smith graduates fair against those from sex-integrated schools. Women are not number-stupid, no matter what "points" he wants to bring up about spacial analysis and evolution. This is just a way to use out-of-context scientific factoids to legitimize sexism. On the same note, an engineering program does not need men in order to validate itself. If anything is keeping women out of engineering, it's attitudes like this.

Smith provides a well rounded education in all disciplines. Half of all the credits a student takes here have to be outside of her respective major. Engineers have no exception. The goal is to produce more than just anti-social cubicle dwellers, rather educated women who happen to kick-ass in a male-dominated field.

Ronnie said...

At UC Davis all engineering students must take Communications 1 (Public Speaking) or 3 (Interpersonal Communication) because they found too many students getting jobs where they needed to work in meetings and on group projects and weren't able to do so due to a lack of communication skills. However at Davis our engineering degrees also have full unit count majors where over 80% of all material is math/science, so I think there needs to be some balance between learning the math/science and being able to communicate that understanding in a business setting.