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Social justice has invaded engineering curriculum, professor writes

Engineers “like to solve technical problems.” It’s a major reason why they enter the profession, Michigan State University engineering professor Indrek Wichman says.

But it’s not the only reason. In a post published by the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, Wichman writes a few other aspects also draw engineers to the field of study.

“One of them was the absence of what I describe here as ‘social engineering,’ where the professor/instructor is interested not so much in solving technical problems as in setting the world right—in his or her opinion,” he says.

Another reason Wichman enjoyed his own study of engineering is that it was somewhat of a meritocracy, where opinions were formed on the “quality of one’s work.”

“In that sense, engineering was like athletics, or music, or the military: there were strict and impersonal standards,” he writes.

Yet, engineering is no longer a field of study solely based on solving problems and producing good work. It’s also a field that has been taken over by social justice advocacy, Wichman writes.

From the article:

Alas, the world we engineers envisioned as young students is not quite as simple and straightforward as we had wished because a phalanx of social justice warriors, ideologues, egalitarians, and opportunistic careerists has ensconced itself in America’s college and universities. The destruction they have caused in the humanities and social sciences has now reached to engineering.

One of the features of their growing power is the phenomenon of “engineering education” programs and schools. They have sought out the soft underbelly of engineering, where phrases such as “diversity” and “different perspectives” and “racial gaps” and “unfairness” and “unequal outcomes” make up the daily vocabulary. Instead of calculating engine horsepower or microchip power/size ratios or aerodynamic lift and drag, the engineering educationists focus on group representation, hurt feelings, and “microaggressions” in the profession.

Wichman mentions Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education, which bills itself as envisioning “a more socially connected and scholarly engineering education.” He takes issue with the school’s goals of “reimagining engineering and engineering education, creating field-shaping knowledge, and empowering agents of change”:

All academic fields shape knowledge and bring about change, but they don’t do that by “empowering” the agents of change. And what does “reimagining engineering” mean? The great aerodynamicist Theodore von Kármán said that “a scientist studies what is, while an engineer creates what never was.” In engineering, we apply scientific principles in the design and creation of new technologies for mankind’s use. It’s a creative process. Since engineering is basically creativity, how are we supposed to “reimagine creativity”? That makes no sense.

And, just for the record, engineers “empower” themselves and, most important, other people, by inventing things. Those things are our agents of change.

Read the full article.

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