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Engineering For A Better World: The Meaning Of Utopian Thinking For Engineering Education

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Global Issues in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.501.1 - 8.501.8



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Paper Authors

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Wim Ravesteijn

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Erik DeGraaff

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session number 3661

Engineering For A Better World: The Meaning Of Utopian Thinking For Engineering Education

Erik de Graaff, Wim Ravesteijn

Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands Jaffalaan 5 2628 BX Delft, the Netherlands email

1. Introduction

In recent years we have seen that conferences of the eight richest countries in the world in Seattle, Genoa and Florence invoked large demonstrations by anti-globalists who condemn the economic policy of the rich countries aimed at a global free market. One might reject the violent methods of these demonstrators, or a small group of them, but there is one thing no one can deny: they have a utopian consciousness, they believe that a better world is possible and desirable. A Dutch paper reporting on the battle in Genoa described the background as follows: “the utopian longing for a better world”.

A lack of utopian consciousness is a general problem in present-day society. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, a common belief seems to have emerged that there are no political and economic ideals to challenge the supremacy of Western capitalism and democracy. Optimistic belief in our ability to shape society has decreased with the same being true for the related belief in progress. Yet a culture may face the onset of decay when it has no utopian forces working in its core, no idealistic drives1.

Engineers in particular should think utopian, because they possess the faculties to substantiate ideals. Until now, however, engineers have not seemed to be very bothered about this, they are not aware of any problems. Why should they be? Our universities of technology deliver engineers who possess great technical skills. Over the past years the awareness has been growing that a fully competent engineer, needs to be proficient in non- technical disciplines relating to science, technology and society. Most schools of engineering nowadays provide their students ample opportunities to learn communication skills2. Still there is something missing: engineers have no underpinned social ideals; they have no strong and cultivated belief that a better world is possible and worthwhile to strive for. Their utopian consciousness, in other words, is underdeveloped. Utopian consciousness and the importance of it for future engineers are the subjects of this paper.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Ravesteijn, W., & DeGraaff, E. (2003, June), Engineering For A Better World: The Meaning Of Utopian Thinking For Engineering Education Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12547

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