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What Would C.P. Snow Have To Say About Service Learning In Engineering?

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.1156.1 - 6.1156.7



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Edmund Tsang

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

Session 3461

What Would C.P. Snow Have To Say About Service-Learning in Engineering?

Edmund Tsang Mechanical Engineering Department, University of South Alabama

I. Introduction

In his famous 1956 essay, “The Two Cultures” [1], C.P. Snow lamented at the state of contact and dialogue between scholars in the “traditional” culture of literature and the humanities, and the “scientific” culture of scientists, mathematicians and engineers. “The separation between the two cultures has been getting deeper under our eyes; there is now precious little communication between them, little but different kinds of incomprehension and dislike.” Snow, who was a mathematician and a writer, stated that “[N]either culture knows the virtues of the other; often it seems they deliberately do not want to know.” As a result, Snow thinks society and the public, as well as the scientists and humanists themselves, were deprived of the fruits of discussions and collaborations between “The Two Cultures.” Snow stated: “On their side the scientists are losing a great deal...On the other side, how much does the traditional culture lose by the separation? I am inclined to think, even more.”

This paper will speculate what C.P. Snow would say about service-learning in engineering. First, the paper will define service-learning and briefly survey service- learning in engineering, including some preliminary results of student assessment. The paper will then present the arguments that C.P. Snow would approve of service-learning in engineering because service-learning offers opportunities for collaborations between “The Two Cultures,” and because service-learning in engineering manifests the “moral” impulse behind the work of engineers and scientists described by Snow in “The Two Culture” article. Finally, the paper will surmise that service-learning in engineering is a form of “Public Engineering,” analogous to the ideas of “Public Scholarship” [2] and “Public Science” [3] to meet the societal needs of the 21st Century.

II. Service-Learning and Service-Learning in Engineering

In a primer on service-learning in higher education [4], B. Jacoby gave this definition of service-learning: “Service-learning is a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development. Reflection and reciprocity are key concepts of service-learning." Jacoby continues:

Tsang, E. (2001, June), What Would C.P. Snow Have To Say About Service Learning In Engineering? Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--10025

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