PRISM - American Society for Engineering Education - Logo - JANUARY 2005 - VOLUME 14, NUMBER 5
A Humanities Plot?

Perhaps some of the reluctance of engineering faculty to accept incorporating humanities courses into an engineering program has to do more with what industry wants. ["Opening a New Book," by Thomas K. Grose, February 2004]

I spent over 15 years in industry before joining academia. I never had a single company ask me in an interview about "how social/economic concerns affect technology". Nor was I ever evaluated (in my annual review) on this. Furthermore, I am unaware of anyone who was asked or evaluated on any of this.

This just sounds like more feel-good, politically correct nonsense. You state industry has "bemoaned for years" this situation. Funny: Our university has a local industry advisory board and they have never communicated these concerns to us.

What are these companies doing to recruit engineers without these shortcomings? Surely some engineering schools must be teaching about social concerns. Are these companies restricting their campus recruiting efforts to just those schools? (As a side note, students don't need to sit in history courses to learn about coping with failure—they experience it weekly trying to get their lab experiments to work. There are some excellent reasons for studying history, but they have nothing to do with what you say in the article.)

In my classes I stress ethical behavior (having experienced unethical behavior at one particular company I worked for). I completely agree that engineering students need to develop this characteristic and be willing to apply it at all times. That does not, however, mean they need a formal class in ethics taught by a philosophy department.

I can't help but believe the humanities departments are behind this. After all, they are the ones fighting to get students to take their classes. A broad education is very worthwhile—I just don't believe what you advocate in your article. I don't believe industry has a ubiquitous yearning to get engineers who understand how social concerns affect technology.
Still, I am a realist. ABET is going to get what ABET wants.

Garrison W. Greenwood
Associate Professor
Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
Portland State University

What do you think?
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