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Higher Education - How can we make it suck a little less?

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  • devCharlesdevCharles Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    First off, anyone talking about engineering jobs being outsourced to India or China has no experience with Indian or Chinese engineers, which I had for about 6 years on a daily basis. Here's the thing about Chinese engineers in particular. They have no imagination. They work incredibly hard, learn things singularly by pure method, and when it comes to creative problem solving, they are commonly up a creek because they were rarely taught in a systematic way to build up fundamentals to get to the point where they can solve problems with ingenuity. That's why so many Chinese and Indian students come to the US to get educated. They are the minority compared to their peers back home.

    If you haven't done upper level engineering coursework, you really have no idea the broad range of things you have to put together to try and solve problems, which tends to be what engineers do.

    This is also why
    One thing that's as true for engineers, computer scientists and plumbers is that they can't research for shit. The number one skill transferred by the liberal arts is the ability to interpret data for themselves and synthesize it for others in understandable language.

    Is beyond ridiculous. Do you have any idea how much research is required in engineering either professionally or at the college level? It's, frankly, an absurd amount. Materials, chemical, nuclear, mechanical, computer, electrical all require substantial amounts of reference guides to be able to do, essentially, anything. Technical writing classes which is learning exactly to interpret and synthesize data in an understandable language tends to be a requirement. Engineers are, granted, not traditionally great writers, but the idea they can't research or use data when most of us are required to take classes that teach how the field of statistics works at all, constant need to look at reference material for anything involved in programming, and networking in a global system to solve complex problems is just flatly wrong. Most of my projects in engineering were group projects. To get through a lot of these classes you had to do exactly what you're talking about if you wanted to even learn the material.
    I have a degree in theatre. I'd love to be in LA going to auditions and working on sets, but I'm not for several reasons. However, I absolutely love production work and that's what I'm doing now. My theatre skills and passion for what about theatre I love has led me here. I could be doing fucking wedding planning and I would enjoy it. I'm lucky to actually be designing theatre productions, but I also wound up working myself into a very niche field where I don't have a lot of competition on pure skill.

    My BA in Theatre means that I have specific training and experience in productions, time management, attention to detail, verbal and non-verbal communication, public speaking, creative problem solving, self motivation, and group work environments. Those are the skills you need to be successful in theatre, and as chance would have it, a lot of other fucking places.

    That's kind of the thing though. You talked about theatre production and said you wound up working into a niche field without a lot of competition on pure skill. I'm not entirely sure what the wedding planner had to do with that, but you enjoy your work, so that's great. I know a lot of theatre schools require you to get in through audition processes similar to music to weed out, and are very big deals if you get in, but I see a degree in acting from the University of Florida as being a serious gamble for some of the people in the program. Just in the state, there are like three better acting programs. It's not Juilliard. The talent requirement would just make me very apprehensive about that field along with a luck component that goes on in something like auditioning.

    The gambling part I would also see is that the skills you gained are things people learn in all kinds of degree programs. I guess I don't see what sets it apart from other liberal arts degrees that had a large speaking component built in, which I would assume would mean that it's a lot of people going after similar jobs from multiple fields. I just view it as a matter of job safety risk I would be apprehensive about.

    Honestly, I really try not to denigrate liberal arts people. I truly believe if you have the work ethic and ability, you can do great things in pretty much any degree. I've met some douchebag humanities people and some very spergy engineering people. All schools are going to be different as well, so I really can't speak for how things are at any campus that isn't mine. I will say this though. It's very, very difficult to coast through engineering. We didn't have many people in our major living the Animal House lifestyle, which the same could not be said for some of the liberal arts program. I won't pass judgment on anybody but the people I saw squandering essentially a free education provided by the state, but it does make me twinge a bit when it seems like people are acting as though there is some substantial parity between what the liberal arts and engineering students are doing in terms of rigor and time spent.

    Also, having a superiority complex over a plumber or any profession is bizarre.

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  • KistraKistra Registered User regular
    Why is the dichotomy in this thread between the soft sciences and engineering??? Wouldn't a better dichotomy be between hard and soft sciences???

    Engineering where I went to school was more like a trade school, they take a very specific set of courses and throw fits when the few courses they take outside of the engineering college actually teach other subjects.

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  • Skoal CatSkoal Cat Registered User
    My favorite thing through all of this, my Dad has a degree in English and retired as CEO of a Fortune 500 company. His best salesman had a PhD in Physics.
    Education is more important than what the education is in sometimes. That's what college is. Proof that you can do.

    ceres wrote: »
    Skoal Cat is correct.
  • PhillisherePhillishere Registered User regular
    Kistra wrote:
    Why is the dichotomy in this thread between the soft sciences and engineering??? Wouldn't a better dichotomy be between hard and soft sciences???

    Engineering where I went to school was more like a trade school, they take a very specific set of courses and throw fits when the few courses they take outside of the engineering college actually teach other subjects.

    Part of the issue is that engineering, computer science and medicine are outliers. Because of the nature of those fields and the social demand for such, those programs do not operate like most majors, even other science majors. They are too complex to be taught at trade schools, but they're also too specialized to sit comfortably along the "broad education" mission of most universities.

    Don't know much about engineering culture in academia, but I've taken a bunch of computer science courses. There's a palpable tension between the professor's aims and the students. The professors are interested in research - developing code for future computers, testing AI and advanced pattern recognition, marrying computer science with medical/biological research, etc. The students want to learn job skills so they can make the cash. So, you got a lot of mutual griping from students forced to learn theoretical topics they believed useless for the workplace and professors bitching that students should just go to community college if all they wanted was to be code monkeys.

  • DemerdarDemerdar Registered User regular
    One thing that's as true for engineers, computer scientists and plumbers is that they can't research for shit. The number one skill transferred by the liberal arts is the ability to interpret data for themselves and synthesize it for others in understandable language.

    That, more than anything else, is why the liberal arts degree remains the bedrock of the professional world. The business world needs people who can write a report, and the average engineer is not that person.

    Lol, what? To be even a remotely successful engineer, communicating your ideas is one of the most important parts of your job. So is doing research, you don't want to re-invent the wheel when others have not only invented the wheel, but put them on a Porsche 911. Hell, all engineers do is interpret data, synthesize it, and then apply it. Not sure why you put plumbers in the same class as an engineer, but it's a slight bit offensive.

    I know nothing about computer scientists, so you might be right about them.

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  • sanstodosanstodo Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Skoal Cat wrote:
    My favorite thing through all of this, my Dad has a degree in English and retired as CEO of a Fortune 500 company. His best salesman had a PhD in Physics.
    Education is more important than what the education is in sometimes. That's what college is. Proof that you can do.

    I agree, to some extent. Claiming "I'm awesome! Hire me!" without any proof or credentials of said awesomeness is silly. Why should anyone hire you without some reason to believe you? That's why people who claim that using Wikipedia and library cards in lieu of formal education as a legitimate path are wrong.

    As other posters have mentioned, the linear mindset ("learn how to do X in school, get a job doing X") exhibited by some in this thread misses the point of a liberal arts education. Studying multiple disciplines a bit and at least one discipline in depth develops critical thinking skills vital to creativity and innovation. Students who read and write the most outstrip their peers in cognitive development. That's why the humanities are vital to anyone interested in developing those skills.

    To put it another way: A plumber need only understand how modern household works to do his/her job competently. However, understanding the history of plumbing, from Roman aqueducts to today's low-flow toilets, would help that plumber if (s)he wanted to invent something new.

    As a side note, anyone who thinks that performance/theater are useless or unworthy of study should think about how performance pervades every facet of our lives, from speed dating to job interviews to national politics.

    Edit: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/education/edlife/edl-17business-t.html?_r=1&ref=businessschools

    Here's an article talking about business schools; it cites "Academically Adrift" by Drs. Arum and Roksa. An important excerpt:

    "At the beginning of freshman year and end of sophomore year, students in the study took the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a national essay test that assesses students’ writing and reasoning skills. During those first two years of college, business students’ scores improved less than any other group’s. Communication, education and social-work majors had slightly better gains; humanities, social science, and science and engineering students saw much stronger improvement."

    Later:

    "According to national surveys, [businesses] want to hire 22-year-olds who can write coherently, think creatively and analyze quantitative data, and they’re perfectly happy to hire English or biology majors. Most Ivy League universities and elite liberal arts colleges, in fact, don’t even offer undergraduate business majors."

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  • LawndartLawndart Registered User regular
    shryke wrote:
    Deebaser wrote:
    Believe me, I totally understand that uncertainty can cause people in fields with no direct career path can cause people to be frustrated. Shit, I finished my undergrad with a stupid Political Science degree.

    It took a while, a few super shitty jobs, and a lot of hard work to get to where I am now. I'm not being a dick when I say "learn excel", it's a pretty important skill to have in a lot of entry level white collar gigs.

    "Learn to use computers and office products" is one of those things they should be forcing you to learn in high school cause damn is that shit useful.

    This would be very difficult to do in the less than wealthy school districts that lack the resources for both computers and office software licenses.

    But that's a tangent for a "Higher education has to make up for the systemic and economic-based failings of America's public schools" thread, perhaps.

  • AngelHedgieAngelHedgie Registered User regular
    Kistra wrote:
    Why is the dichotomy in this thread between the soft sciences and engineering??? Wouldn't a better dichotomy be between hard and soft sciences???

    Engineering where I went to school was more like a trade school, they take a very specific set of courses and throw fits when the few courses they take outside of the engineering college actually teach other subjects.

    Part of the issue is that engineering, computer science and medicine are outliers. Because of the nature of those fields and the social demand for such, those programs do not operate like most majors, even other science majors. They are too complex to be taught at trade schools, but they're also too specialized to sit comfortably along the "broad education" mission of most universities.

    Don't know much about engineering culture in academia, but I've taken a bunch of computer science courses. There's a palpable tension between the professor's aims and the students. The professors are interested in research - developing code for future computers, testing AI and advanced pattern recognition, marrying computer science with medical/biological research, etc. The students want to learn job skills so they can make the cash. So, you got a lot of mutual griping from students forced to learn theoretical topics they believed useless for the workplace and professors bitching that students should just go to community college if all they wanted was to be code monkeys.

    The professors are right though.

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  • DeebaserDeebaser Alpha Teemo Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Lawndart wrote:
    shryke wrote:
    Deebaser wrote:
    Believe me, I totally understand that uncertainty can cause people in fields with no direct career path can cause people to be frustrated. Shit, I finished my undergrad with a stupid Political Science degree.

    It took a while, a few super shitty jobs, and a lot of hard work to get to where I am now. I'm not being a dick when I say "learn excel", it's a pretty important skill to have in a lot of entry level white collar gigs.

    "Learn to use computers and office products" is one of those things they should be forcing you to learn in high school cause damn is that shit useful.

    This would be very difficult to do in the less than wealthy school districts that lack the resources for both computers and office software licenses.

    But that's a tangent for a "Higher education has to make up for the systemic and economic-based failings of America's public schools" thread, perhaps.

    Low end workstations and educational licenses are pretty cheap.
    The educational benefits definitely justify by the cost.

    Deebaser on
  • shrykeshryke Member of the Beast Registered User regular
    Kistra wrote:
    Why is the dichotomy in this thread between the soft sciences and engineering??? Wouldn't a better dichotomy be between hard and soft sciences???

    Engineering where I went to school was more like a trade school, they take a very specific set of courses and throw fits when the few courses they take outside of the engineering college actually teach other subjects.

    Part of the issue is that engineering, computer science and medicine are outliers. Because of the nature of those fields and the social demand for such, those programs do not operate like most majors, even other science majors. They are too complex to be taught at trade schools, but they're also too specialized to sit comfortably along the "broad education" mission of most universities.

    Don't know much about engineering culture in academia, but I've taken a bunch of computer science courses. There's a palpable tension between the professor's aims and the students. The professors are interested in research - developing code for future computers, testing AI and advanced pattern recognition, marrying computer science with medical/biological research, etc. The students want to learn job skills so they can make the cash. So, you got a lot of mutual griping from students forced to learn theoretical topics they believed useless for the workplace and professors bitching that students should just go to community college if all they wanted was to be code monkeys.

    The professors are right though.

    So very very right. Especially if you want to GO anywhere in a computer development career.

    But hell, if people WANT to be Code Monkeys, more power to them I guess...

  • bowenbowen Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    If you want to get into research and a grad degree, most definitely.

    If you want to get into the field that requires a bachelors degree because that's the way it is now, then no. For instance, the more advanced topics, I can probably count on a single hand how many times I've used them to accomplish a goal or a task, even then it wasn't even really needed just a "hah look." Though I agree there needs to be more focus on community college and other vocational schools than university.

    Though local xyz trying to fill a position that requires a bachelors and 8 years of experience that really only needs a 2 year degree tops would beg to differ with me there.

    bowen on
  • Skoal CatSkoal Cat Registered User
    edited July 2011
    sanstodo wrote:

    As a side note, anyone who thinks that performance/theater are useless or unworthy of study should think about how performance pervades every facet of our lives, from speed dating to job interviews to national politics.

    I will fight those people
    Spoiler:

    Skoal Cat on
    ceres wrote: »
    Skoal Cat is correct.
  • QuidQuid The Fifth Horseman Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Lawndart wrote:
    shryke wrote:
    Deebaser wrote:
    Believe me, I totally understand that uncertainty can cause people in fields with no direct career path can cause people to be frustrated. Shit, I finished my undergrad with a stupid Political Science degree.

    It took a while, a few super shitty jobs, and a lot of hard work to get to where I am now. I'm not being a dick when I say "learn excel", it's a pretty important skill to have in a lot of entry level white collar gigs.

    "Learn to use computers and office products" is one of those things they should be forcing you to learn in high school cause damn is that shit useful.

    This would be very difficult to do in the less than wealthy school districts that lack the resources for both computers and office software licenses.

    But that's a tangent for a "Higher education has to make up for the systemic and economic-based failings of America's public schools" thread, perhaps.

    Eh? My school was on the low end of funding and they still taught a couple years of business computers, with the first being mandatory.

    Edit: And that was a decade ago.

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  • hippofanthippofant Registered User regular
    shryke wrote:
    Kistra wrote:
    Why is the dichotomy in this thread between the soft sciences and engineering??? Wouldn't a better dichotomy be between hard and soft sciences???

    Engineering where I went to school was more like a trade school, they take a very specific set of courses and throw fits when the few courses they take outside of the engineering college actually teach other subjects.

    Part of the issue is that engineering, computer science and medicine are outliers. Because of the nature of those fields and the social demand for such, those programs do not operate like most majors, even other science majors. They are too complex to be taught at trade schools, but they're also too specialized to sit comfortably along the "broad education" mission of most universities.

    Don't know much about engineering culture in academia, but I've taken a bunch of computer science courses. There's a palpable tension between the professor's aims and the students. The professors are interested in research - developing code for future computers, testing AI and advanced pattern recognition, marrying computer science with medical/biological research, etc. The students want to learn job skills so they can make the cash. So, you got a lot of mutual griping from students forced to learn theoretical topics they believed useless for the workplace and professors bitching that students should just go to community college if all they wanted was to be code monkeys.

    The professors are right though.

    So very very right. Especially if you want to GO anywhere in a computer development career.

    But hell, if people WANT to be Code Monkeys, more power to them I guess...

    Computer SCIENCE is a difficult concept to grasp for most people. The academic field is supposed to be about exploring the things that we can do with computers and how we can do them. Just like in Biology, one doesn't learn how to raise animals or run safaris or grow trees. The difference is that CS is a relatively new field: it wasn't too long ago that you really did have to be a computer SCIENTIST to do anything on a computer. It's moved rather rapidly away from that, but the field hasn't exactly caught up yet with a PSE program for more rote computer programming roles.

    As for whither side CS belongs on... depends on the uni. Where I went, CS was in the Math faculty; where I am, CS is in the Arts and Science faculty. The difference is very noticeable, but I'll admit that in my first two years, I did not work nearly as hard as the engineers did (I joked you could tell who was an engineer based on if he was doing homework when you saw him). In third and fourth year though, that was when we started sleeping every other night camped out in front of our computers....

  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    Demerdar wrote:
    One thing that's as true for engineers, computer scientists and plumbers is that they can't research for shit. The number one skill transferred by the liberal arts is the ability to interpret data for themselves and synthesize it for others in understandable language.

    That, more than anything else, is why the liberal arts degree remains the bedrock of the professional world. The business world needs people who can write a report, and the average engineer is not that person.

    Lol, what? To be even a remotely successful engineer, communicating your ideas is one of the most important parts of your job. So is doing research, you don't want to re-invent the wheel when others have not only invented the wheel, but put them on a Porsche 911. Hell, all engineers do is interpret data, synthesize it, and then apply it. Not sure why you put plumbers in the same class as an engineer, but it's a slight bit offensive.

    Why would that be offensive? Being a good plumber is very demanding, challenging work that requires years of training and a specialized skill set practically impossible to acquire in a classroom.

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  • DemerdarDemerdar Registered User regular
    spool32 wrote:
    Demerdar wrote:
    One thing that's as true for engineers, computer scientists and plumbers is that they can't research for shit. The number one skill transferred by the liberal arts is the ability to interpret data for themselves and synthesize it for others in understandable language.

    That, more than anything else, is why the liberal arts degree remains the bedrock of the professional world. The business world needs people who can write a report, and the average engineer is not that person.

    Lol, what? To be even a remotely successful engineer, communicating your ideas is one of the most important parts of your job. So is doing research, you don't want to re-invent the wheel when others have not only invented the wheel, but put them on a Porsche 911. Hell, all engineers do is interpret data, synthesize it, and then apply it. Not sure why you put plumbers in the same class as an engineer, but it's a slight bit offensive.

    Why would that be offensive? Being a good plumber is very demanding, challenging work that requires years of training and a specialized skill set practically impossible to acquire in a classroom.

    Obviously.

    Being a good engineer requires a much different skill-set than a plumber, not to mention the work not being related in any capacity whatsoever. I'm not trying to take away anything about plumbers, blue collar work is good and they know more about plumbing than I do. But to say that, on average, my ability to interpret data and synthesize it is on the same level as a plumber is slightly offensive. I'm pretty sure the average plumber would not be able to interpret the shit I have to research on a daily basis, much less synthesize it and explain it to others. Two totally different ball games my friend.

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  • BubbaTBubbaT Registered User regular
    So Amazon has decided to enter the business of digital textbook rentals, via its Kindle service. Any chance, given Amazon's clout, that this has a significant effect on textbook prices, or is it only going to take out other smaller textbook rental services? It'd be awesome if textbooks could get moved to a business model along the lines of digitally-distributed music.

  • L Ron HowardL Ron Howard Registered User regular
    BubbaT wrote:
    So Amazon has decided to enter the business of digital textbook rentals, via its Kindle service. Any chance, given Amazon's clout, that this has a significant effect on textbook prices, or is it only going to take out other smaller textbook rental services? It'd be awesome if textbooks could get moved to a business model along the lines of digitally-distributed music.

    Where, unless you use a service they provide or specify, they charge you with criminal charges and take you to court and sue you for more money than you'll make in your lifetime?

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  • acidlacedpenguinacidlacedpenguin Registered User regular
    One thing that's as true for engineers, computer scientists and plumbers is that they can't research for shit. The number one skill transferred by the liberal arts is the ability to interpret data for themselves and synthesize it for others in understandable language.

    That, more than anything else, is why the liberal arts degree remains the bedrock of the professional world. The business world needs people who can write a report, and the average engineer is not that person.

    :-(( writing reports/documentation, researching, and expressing ideas are among my top talents as a computer scientist whose current job title is Engineer/Scientist.

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  • DeebaserDeebaser Alpha Teemo Registered User regular
    Yeah, generally I prefer to read reports written by people that have an intimate understanding of the topic. A copy of Strunk and White can be picked up on the cheap.

  • DanWeinoDanWeino Registered User regular
    One thing that's as true for engineers, computer scientists and plumbers is that they can't research for shit. The number one skill transferred by the liberal arts is the ability to interpret data for themselves and synthesize it for others in understandable language.

    That, more than anything else, is why the liberal arts degree remains the bedrock of the professional world. The business world needs people who can write a report, and the average engineer is not that person.

    :-(( writing reports/documentation, researching, and expressing ideas are among my top talents as a computer scientist whose current job title is Engineer/Scientist.

    A few leak through the gaps :p, but on my course (computer science) there is a definate inability among many to find texts/articles/whatever that haven't been given to them by the lecturer. Sometimes its pretty funny. For instance a course book was named something like "analysis in systems, a guide to information by Webb, Blue and Brown" (fake but you'll get the point.) The next day I go to the library, and to no suprise all the copies of said book are gone. Then you look at our online discussion forum for the module and loads of people are complaining that there are no more copies. Funny thing is the book "A guide to analysing systems by Webb, Blue and Brown" the book is a nearly identical to the book suggested, and is in fact just the equivalent of a previous edition. No one thought to even check that the books might at all be similar and have the chapter we required in it (it did).

    Yes many, many people can go and research and find stuff out, but there are an awful lot (in my experience) who can't and pretty much need to be given the materials to read. I can only imagine the bibliographies of many of the essays handed in all contained the same 4 texts that the lecturer suggested with no wider reading included.

    Plus anytime I dare bring out a book in a lecture that isn't in the course guide I get questioned as to what it is, why aren't I reading the one on the guide and what are you doing crazy man?


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  • PhillisherePhillishere Registered User regular
    :-(( writing reports/documentation, researching, and expressing ideas are among my top talents as a computer scientist whose current job title is Engineer/Scientist.

    I've worked with engineers. You guys are very, very special. Clear, concise prose was not one of their strong points, and they were all native English speakers.

    You want a fun job, work as an editor on a job where you do not have the security clearance to edit the material you were hired to edit for engineers who cannot write a complete, understandable sentence to save their lives.

  • DemerdarDemerdar Registered User regular
    :-(( writing reports/documentation, researching, and expressing ideas are among my top talents as a computer scientist whose current job title is Engineer/Scientist.

    I've worked with engineers. You guys are very, very special. Clear, concise prose was not one of their strong points, and they were all native English speakers.

    You want a fun job, work as an editor on a job where you do not have the security clearance to edit the material you were hired to edit for engineers who cannot write a complete, understandable sentence to save their lives.

    I guess there are different levels of "engineer". I guess I have a very hard time believing that an engineer could keep a job with such terrible writing as you describe. I guess that just makes me an even more awesome engineer.

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  • acidlacedpenguinacidlacedpenguin Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Yeah, I'm certainly a lucky exception. I recognize that while I was in school many in my program couldn't word their way out of a wet paperback "See Spot Run." That and a good 80% of my Chemistry classmates were never able to get their heads around writing past tense objective processes, "The pipette was loaded with 20ml of solution A" versus "I put 20ml of solution A in my pipette" or what have you.

    edit: now, communicating clearly in person where I can't take a few moments to consider my choice of words, that's a skill that does not come easily to me.

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  • PhillisherePhillishere Registered User regular
    Demerdar wrote:

    I guess there are different levels of "engineer". I guess I have a very hard time believing that an engineer could keep a job with such terrible writing as you describe. I guess that just makes me an even more awesome engineer.

    These guys weren't hired for their writing abilities. They were hired because they could build nuclear reactors.

  • AngelHedgieAngelHedgie Registered User regular
    Demerdar wrote:

    I guess there are different levels of "engineer". I guess I have a very hard time believing that an engineer could keep a job with such terrible writing as you describe. I guess that just makes me an even more awesome engineer.

    These guys weren't hired for their writing abilities. They were hired because they could build nuclear reactors.

    Ah. Yeah, NukEs are a special breed of engineer.

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  • Fizban140Fizban140 Registered User, __BANNED USERS
    edited July 2011
    Yeah, I'm certainly a lucky exception. I recognize that while I was in school many in my program couldn't word their way out of a wet paperback "See Spot Run." That and a good 80% of my Chemistry classmates were never able to get their heads around writing past tense objective processes, "The pipette was loaded with 20ml of solution A" versus "I put 20ml of solution A in my pipette" or what have you.

    edit: now, communicating clearly in person where I can't take a few moments to consider my choice of words, that's a skill that does not come easily to me.
    I can't imagine how that is possible, in the military we had to write narratives and stuff like that for maintenace reports. People who scored 30 or 40 out of 100 on an ASVAB could do it without problems. I mean it is basically the same you described, "180 day check performed on AC 78432" instead of "We did a 180 day check on aircraft 785943"


    Although I do know quite a few college graduates who can't write at all, it is weird.


    Oddly relevant we watched a documentary on for profit schools today in my english class. Those things are scary as shit, as in "America is going to die" scary.
    Really if our education systems doesn't drastically improve this country will die. People are graduating from college and learning nothing except how to cheat the system. Colleges are ranked by who they accept not how much their students learned. Schools pay students that boost their stats to attend their colleges so they look better on paper.

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  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    Demerdar wrote:
    spool32 wrote:
    Demerdar wrote:
    One thing that's as true for engineers, computer scientists and plumbers is that they can't research for shit. The number one skill transferred by the liberal arts is the ability to interpret data for themselves and synthesize it for others in understandable language.

    That, more than anything else, is why the liberal arts degree remains the bedrock of the professional world. The business world needs people who can write a report, and the average engineer is not that person.

    Lol, what? To be even a remotely successful engineer, communicating your ideas is one of the most important parts of your job. So is doing research, you don't want to re-invent the wheel when others have not only invented the wheel, but put them on a Porsche 911. Hell, all engineers do is interpret data, synthesize it, and then apply it. Not sure why you put plumbers in the same class as an engineer, but it's a slight bit offensive.

    Why would that be offensive? Being a good plumber is very demanding, challenging work that requires years of training and a specialized skill set practically impossible to acquire in a classroom.

    Obviously.

    Being a good engineer requires a much different skill-set than a plumber, not to mention the work not being related in any capacity whatsoever. I'm not trying to take away anything about plumbers, blue collar work is good and they know more about plumbing than I do. But to say that, on average, my ability to interpret data and synthesize it is on the same level as a plumber is slightly offensive. I'm pretty sure the average plumber would not be able to interpret the shit I have to research on a daily basis, much less synthesize it and explain it to others. Two totally different ball games my friend.

    That really depends on whether you're the "average" engineer, and from my own experience as the PM bridge between engineering and people who need things engineered, the average engineer isn't much better at understanding complex problems, finding solutions to them, or explaining their solutions than the average plumber.

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  • BubbaTBubbaT Registered User regular
    BubbaT wrote:
    So Amazon has decided to enter the business of digital textbook rentals, via its Kindle service. Any chance, given Amazon's clout, that this has a significant effect on textbook prices, or is it only going to take out other smaller textbook rental services? It'd be awesome if textbooks could get moved to a business model along the lines of digitally-distributed music.

    Where, unless you use a service they provide or specify, they charge you with criminal charges and take you to court and sue you for more money than you'll make in your lifetime?

    I think they already have laws against illegally copying and distributing textbooks, so it's not like consumers would be losing any rights in the scenario.

    What consumers would gain in an online music-esque setup:
    - the ability to purchase textbook chapters a la carte. Like iTunes. Buy each chapter as the course covers it, without being forced to pay for chapters that the course skips. And if you have to withdraw from the class, you're not stuck with having bought the entire book.
    - the ability to "subscribe" to the campus bookstore, allowing access to every book therein, for a flat/monthly fee. Like Rhapsody.
    - the ability to "subscribe" with the option to keep some books. Like Zune Pass.
    - textbooks that are free, and supported by ads. Like Pandora.

    These all sound a lot better than the current system of forcing kids to buy new books for $Texas every semester, which they can only re-sell for $Delaware.

  • L Ron HowardL Ron Howard Registered User regular
    When's the last time you've seen anyone taken to court over photo copying a text book?

    And instead of paying $250 for a 16 chapter book, it'll be $40+ per chapter. That's still a huge profit margin, assuming you skip nothing short of half the book.

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  • PhyphorPhyphor Building Planet Busters Tasting FruitRegistered User regular
    Even higher really as they don't actually have to print the book at that point

  • mrt144mrt144 King of the Numbernames Registered User regular
    Demerdar wrote:

    I guess there are different levels of "engineer". I guess I have a very hard time believing that an engineer could keep a job with such terrible writing as you describe. I guess that just makes me an even more awesome engineer.

    These guys weren't hired for their writing abilities. They were hired because they could build nuclear reactors.

    Are these PhDs? How do you even write and defend a thesis without a modicum of communication skills?

  • BubbaTBubbaT Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    When's the last time you've seen anyone taken to court over photo copying a text book?

    And instead of paying $250 for a 16 chapter book, it'll be $40+ per chapter. That's still a huge profit margin, assuming you skip nothing short of half the book.

    When was the last time you saw someone taken to court for violating music copyrights before Napster & friends blew up? None of the labels were suing for taping off the radio.

    At any rate, lawsuits can easily be avoided. Just don't pirate (and secure your wifi).


    And comparing retail costs of CDs before digital distribution to costs of CDs now, they're a lot cheaper now - even before adjusting for inflation. It didn't happen overnight, but it happened. Just like it's happening with games (see: Steam summer sale).

    And yes, they'll be bigger margins. But if those bigger margins are accompanied by lower retail prices for consumers, isn't that still good for consumers? Is it somehow better for students to pay more while the publishers make less?

    BubbaT on
  • DemerdarDemerdar Registered User regular
    mrt144 wrote:
    Demerdar wrote:

    I guess there are different levels of "engineer". I guess I have a very hard time believing that an engineer could keep a job with such terrible writing as you describe. I guess that just makes me an even more awesome engineer.

    These guys weren't hired for their writing abilities. They were hired because they could build nuclear reactors.

    Are these PhDs? How do you even write and defend a thesis without a modicum of communication skills?

    Or even comprehend past written research in the field?

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  • hippofanthippofant Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    Demerdar wrote:
    mrt144 wrote:
    Demerdar wrote:

    I guess there are different levels of "engineer". I guess I have a very hard time believing that an engineer could keep a job with such terrible writing as you describe. I guess that just makes me an even more awesome engineer.

    These guys weren't hired for their writing abilities. They were hired because they could build nuclear reactors.

    Are these PhDs? How do you even write and defend a thesis without a modicum of communication skills?

    Or even comprehend past written research in the field?

    Well... I would hardly consider research papers to be exemplars of written communication. I have a harder time reading some papers than I did reading Heart of Darkness.

    Keep in mind, most research journals publish in English, but the vast majority of publishers are not native English speakers. As well, after working on a given research problem for years, in a small team to the exclusion of the world at large, people tend to develop a specific lingo that might only be sensible to them. The quality of language in research journals isn't exactly superior.

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  • DemerdarDemerdar Registered User regular
    hippofant wrote:
    Demerdar wrote:
    mrt144 wrote:
    Demerdar wrote:

    I guess there are different levels of "engineer". I guess I have a very hard time believing that an engineer could keep a job with such terrible writing as you describe. I guess that just makes me an even more awesome engineer.

    These guys weren't hired for their writing abilities. They were hired because they could build nuclear reactors.

    Are these PhDs? How do you even write and defend a thesis without a modicum of communication skills?

    Or even comprehend past written research in the field?

    Well... I would hardly consider research papers to be exemplars of written communication. I have a harder time reading some papers than I did reading Heart of Darkness.

    Keep in mind, most research journals publish in English, but the vast majority of publishers are not native English speakers. The quality of language in research journals isn't exactly superior.

    Trust me, I know this all too well. If anything it makes you better at reading and comprehending those published articles.

    parabol
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  • SyrdonSyrdon Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    mrt144 wrote:
    Demerdar wrote:

    I guess there are different levels of "engineer". I guess I have a very hard time believing that an engineer could keep a job with such terrible writing as you describe. I guess that just makes me an even more awesome engineer.

    These guys weren't hired for their writing abilities. They were hired because they could build nuclear reactors.
    Are these PhDs? How do you even write and defend a thesis without a modicum of communication skills?
    [edit]Shorter answer: in order to understand a nuclear engineer, you must already be an nuclear engineer. Also crazy, but you covered that back when you decided that you wanted to be a nuclear engineer[/edit]Short answer: In that particular field, having your design and supporting math be absolutely flawless is more important than everything else. Its not in any way acceptable to have a part with any sort of an identifiable design flaw, and only barely acceptable to have a part where a flaw eventually comes up 50 years down the line in 1% of the parts. When that's the standard, you spend all your time working on the design and the math, and the writing bits are something you do in 20 minutes.

    They at least have masters and likely the equivalent of PHDs. But their equivalent of a defense will look nothing like defending an english thesis.

    Syrdon on
  • SageinaRageSageinaRage Registered User regular
    Deebaser wrote:
    Honestly, you'd probably be better off going to trade school and picking up a library card.

    Let me know how the weather is down there at the bottom rung of the social ladder. It doesn't matter if you make $60K being a plumber. Your still a damn plumber who fixes clogged bathrooms and other messes. Compare that to the social standing of doing something that doesn't involve going to other people's bathrooms? I'd like my higher rung and laugh.

    Sorry, I was just raised better than to look down on someone earning an honest living. I don't care if they're a plumber, janitor, or admin assistant.

    Social standings are a fact of life. Denying that is like living in a fantasy.

    I'm really going to need you to back this up in some way. In what way do social standings exist in a modernized western country, that aren't purely economic divisions? There aren't really a lot that I can think of. There's a non-negligible amount of blue collar workers who make more than white collar workers, and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a distinction between them that isn't just how tired they are at the end of the day.

  • SageinaRageSageinaRage Registered User regular
    In general in the whole 'liberal arts v. engineering' debate, I'm a fairly liberal artsy person. I went to school for computer science, but if it wasn't for that, it would have been for theater or english. I went to Georgia Tech, which is very engineering heavy, but I did a lot of theater, so I got to see a lot of both groups. In general I'd agree with both sides to a certain extent - most engineers don't have a good grasp of how to communicate or explain themselves. I remember doing physics homework with a guy who was able to grasp and answer problems almost instantly, but I couldn't follow his reasoning as to how he got the answer. They are really not trained at all in that area.

    However, the issue with liberal arts is that very few of those people are trained for that either. The main distinction I've found is that while engineers deal with complicated concepts and can't manage to simplify and clarify them, liberal arts people tend to be trained to complicate and obfuscate, in order to make their ideas sound more complicated than they are. Not that the people are in any way dumb or bad communicators, but clarity of thought, and the ability to communicate and educate, is not really in the curriculum, it's just a happy byproduct when it happens. You might argue that it's a byproduct more often than it is from a engineering or science degree, but I'm somewhat dubious of that.

  • SyrdonSyrdon Registered User regular
    edited July 2011
    I'm really going to need you to back this up in some way. In what way do social standings exist in a modernized western country, that aren't purely economic divisions? There aren't really a lot that I can think of. There's a non-negligible amount of blue collar workers who make more than white collar workers, and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a distinction between them that isn't just how tired they are at the end of the day.
    There is a cultural stigma associated with blue collar work in the US for some reason. I can only assume its because of the folks who spent 4-8 years in school so they could work for an idiot, get paid less and work longer hours are jealous of the guy whose boss doesn't have the time required to micromanage their work, gets paid more and works fewer hours.

    edit: on the subject of communicating clearly, there are some bits of the hard sciences the are just hard to be clear about. Everyone hears about E = mc^2, its relatively rare that you see mention that this formula is only correct if you've moving at the same speed and in the same direction as the object that's losing mass. If you're not, then the formula gets more complicated (and I don't think the forum supports square roots).

    There are some cases where the only way to be clear about what you're saying is to either assume the other person has a lot of knowledge, or to be wrong (try to explain calculus without referencing any math beyond fractions if you don't believe me. You're allowed to use any terms that you define. Points off if your audience gets bored). In my experience, the people that go into the hard sciences aren't the sort that are willing to be wrong, which means they have to assume you have (and recall) at least half a degree in physics to be clear. When the assumption is wrong, their meaning gets lost.

    Syrdon on
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