Oops, There Goes Another Bridge

I probably shouldn't criticize a curriculum that I have not observed, but as someone who studied engineering the old-fashioned way (ie with lots of math and equations) this looks kind of worrisome:

Today's Christian Science Monitor profiles Glenn Ellis, a professor who helped develop Smith's innovative engineering curriculum, which emphasizes context, ethics, and communication as much as formulas and equations.

We know that when the goals in public schools were shifted from education to graduation and retention (e.g. social promotion), the results were disastrous.   So one has to be a little wary of a curriculum aimed more at retention than, you know, designing bridges correctly:

Smith, the first women's college to offer an engineering degree, graduated its first class of engineers in 2004, and since the program's creation, in 1999, has attained a 90-percent retention rate.

Hmm.  Well, if they are teaching the same material in a more engaging manner, fine.  But lower degree retention rates in hard core engineering programs is not a "female thing."  I know that we had a lot of attrition from the harder engineering degrees (mechanical, chemical) at Princeton even among Ivy-League-Quality students and even among the males. 

Hat tip: TJIC


  1. Bill Brown:

    Crap, that's just what I need. I can avoid irrationalism in education in most contexts by being more aware. But I just know I'll be driving on an overpass designed by one of these engineers who feel really good about themselves and care deeply about sustainability at some point in the future and end up plummeting to my death because of a lack of understanding of materials science.

    At least doctors still have to know about medicine and not their social responsibilities...for now.

  2. James Barlow:

    Let's not dismiss it out of hand; let's give it a try.

    And in the interim I'm only driving over bridges designed by really old guys.

  3. Steve:

    The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Are they any good as engineers? Are their employers happy with them? I suggest that these are the question that need answering before anyone claims their "innovative" program is a success.