June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.8.1 - 12.8.11
A BA Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies Degree at a Polytechnic Institution
The BA in Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies provides an educational vehicle for the person who seeks a career within which a knowledge of engineering and an ability to interact with engineers is critical, but who does not want a traditional engineering career. This degree will produce more technologically literate students who understand the principles of engineering and who will apply them to the profession they choose to pursue as citizens of a deeply technological society, but will not produce more practicing engineers immediately or directly. The significance of engineering lies mainly in its relation to other societal sectors. Clearly engineers must be more aware of this interrelationship, and the leaders of other sectors must become more technologically literate. The BA in Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies graduate works at this critical interface. This paper describes a pilot effort to design and deliver a curriculum that is the fruit of a multi-college collaboration. It details the collegial effort required to distill a functional program from the ideas of an interested, variegated constituency. It treats challenges in implementation in an academic environment which is allegedly steeped in disciplinary parochialism.
Modern society is technologically driven and technology centered. Thus, an understanding of technology, a technological literacy, is a critical prerequisite for full participation as a citizen in the 21st Century world. Indeed, government rarely characterizes the key public challenges as questions of technology, they are assumed to be socio-economic-political problems. However, key issues often intersect, and technology lies at the center of the intersections, sometimes causing the problems, but more typically offering possibilities for their solution. In its connection to human affairs, technology now defines our culture in much the same way religion or philosophy has in times past.
Engineers have too often created the technology which underpins and empowers our society in a vacuum. They are often neither fully aware of the end-uses of their creations nor participants in policy discussions defining that end-use. Similarly, users of technology and the framers of policy have employed devices and systems, often without understanding their basis, their capability or their inherent limitations. Neither of these situations is optimal, engineers must become more aware of the implications of their work, and societal leaders and citizens must become more technology - literate. It is critical that higher education reflect these complexities and provide these connections.
It is almost too fashionable to point out the shortcomings in American education. However, whether the investigator is concerned with engineering education, science and mathematics education or education in the liberal arts, it is critical to recognize that our traditional academic structure does not provide proper motivation for comprehensive learning that is appropriate for the Twenty-First Century. Engineers tend to teach science as much as engineering while
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