The Engineering Humanities

By MacKinnon, James C | ASEE Prism, April 1997 | Go to article overview

The Engineering Humanities


MacKinnon, James C, ASEE Prism


The basic goal of engineering education is to prepare graduates for effective and responsible careers as practicing professionals. Engineering design and sciences dominate the current curriculum, but the changing circumstances of modern practice compel us to better educate our students in the engineering humanities-the history, ethics, politics, economics, and legal and management aspects of the profession.

I'd like to propose that engineering schools add a core set of humanities courses-such as the following-to their curriculum:

* "Engineering in History" would introduce students to the profession through inquiry into a broad spectrum of engineering accomplishments and their role in human history. Selected themes from social, economic, and political history would provide the necessary background. Technology and Culture, the international journal of the Society for the History of Technology, provides an excellent resource for developing inquiry into engineering in history.

* "Professional Engineering Ethics" would be an extension of existing case-oriented ethics courses. This subject would delve into the foundations of moral philosophy, challenging students' personal commitment to professional responsibility and cultivating a sound background for ethical decision making. It would also provide an excellent opportunity to stimulate students' appreciation for the historical development of ideas.

* "Engineering, Law, and Politics" would focus upon developing a fundamental understanding of the contemporary social and political milieu in which professional engineering must function. Study in this subject might begin with a historical introduction to political philosophy, followed by a review of the modern political process and jurisprudence fundamentals. The course would conclude with an examination of legal matters related directly to engineering practice, for example industrial regulations and contracts.

* "Engineering Economics and Management" would be the capstone of the core curriculum. Building upon knowledge and experience from the previous three subjects, the course would focus on preparation for entry into the profession. Critical inquiries in this subject area might focus upon selected themes from political economy and economic policy; basic principles of economics, social dynamics, and organizations; and psychology of personal and industrial relations. …

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The Engineering Humanities
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