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May 13, 1988 - Image 22

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1988-05-13

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Engineers Vs. Humanists?
Congratulations to Mark W. Keller on
both his choice of degrees and his choice of
words in "Can Engineers Be Humanists?"
(MY TURN). As an English and communica-
tions major who is constantly under attack
from more "practically majored" friends
asking what kind of job I think I'll get, it's
wonderful to see a "practical" student turn
his back on the majority's choice of money
and opt for the minority's choice of the
mind. It will be interesting to see where
Keller is in relation to his engineering col-
leagues 20 years from now.
James Madison University
Harrisonburg, Va.
* 0 *0
As a political-science major, I
looked upon science majors as
narrow, mechanical people,
and urged them all to take
courses that would make them
"think." After reading Keller's
article, I feel vindicated but am
also willing to concede that
there is more to this issue than
meets the eye.
New York, N Y
What about those human-
ists who cannot be engineers?
While all science majors are
able to form a reasonable
sentence, not all humanities
majors are able to derive the
function of an equation. Phys- BY
ics majors are labeled "intelli-
gent." English majors are "in-
sightful." For once, I'd like to be thought
intelligent-even though I may not under-
stand quantum mechanics.
Boston College
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
* 6 *
Keller has answered his own question:
yes, of course, engineers can be humanists,
as is quite evident by his "leap" to pursue
an education inclusive of both humanities
and engineering. Furthermore, I'm in-
clined to believe that his verbal prowess
and ability to make a thoughtful and criti-
cal decision answer a more important ques-
tion: was it worth it?
Colgate University
Hamilton, N Y
* * 0
Mark Keller is not only a fool but a brain-
washed humanist. One goes to college to
learn how to think rationally regardless of

the college, the major, the future career,
the other students or the faculty. To be
human, one must think. The engineers and
the scientists are thinkers; they are the
builders of this world. Can Mr. Keller's
"humanists," whatever they are, claim the
same? He reminds me of kiss-and-tell peo-
ple, born-again people and drop-out-to-
find-myself people-all fools.
Sophomore in English
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, Tenn.
I, too, attended a small liberal-arts col-
lege and majored in chemistry. There is,
however, no need to abandon the human-

and experience which already exists. This
understanding and discipline is the first
step to creativity in any field.
B.S.E.E. and B.A., Notre Dame '87
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, Calif
0 0 0
Mark Keller's turn was another attack
on engineers as plain nerds unable to un-
derstand and relate nonmathematical
ideas. But engineering students don't go to
college to learn the meaning of life; we go to
learn the skills necessary to contribute to
the technological growth of society. We're
geared toward problem solving, whereas in
most of my humanities classes I've noticed


~an Engineers
Is Humanists?
I can't math
tthe people
in me ore ta sset:
it' Sik t Hlim joke
V wiho doe - et it
M.l A ' K KE L I;F

there is a discussion of prob-
lems but no action. We're the
part of society that keeps it go-
ing and growing.
Washington, D.C.
* 0 0
I am a metallurgical-engi-
neering undergraduate in one
of those big engineering "fac-
tories." I'm also that "sensitive
humanist" with a desire to
broaden my education beyond
the scope of engineering con-
cepts and laws. Many engineer-
ing students are more human
than you'd think. Just give
them a fair chance.
University of Wisconsin-
Madison, Wis.
* 0 0


ities for science, or vice versa. I'm currently
a T.A. at Marquette University, earning
my masters in organic chemistry. Now I
not only teach chemistry to more than 50
freshmen but find myself answering ques-
tions ranging from the Peace of Westphalia
to Freud's "Interpretation of Dreams."
Kenyon College '87
Marquette University '89
Milwaukee, Wis.
* 0 0
Keller's perception of engineering is at
fault. The act of opening one's mind to
"allow associations of new and old knowl-
edge" which Keller finds so readily in his
literature classes is precisely what is neces-
sary to solve ever more advanced and intri-
cate engineering problems. A German-lit-
erature major must first master the
language before exploring the works of
Goethe and Hesse. An engineer must speak
the language of mathematics and physics
in order to digest the wealth of knowledge

When industry recruits an engineer, it
isn't looking for someone to design the ideal
transformer but for someone who knows
how to find logical solutions to technical
problems. Similarly, when an English or
psychology major is recruited, the employ-
er doesn't want someone to analyze Chau-
cer or lecture on personality disorders; he
wants someone to find logical solutions to
communications, business or organization-
al problems. The common denominator
here is that the college graduate has
learned to think.
B.ME., Georgia Tech '78
Atlanta, Ga.
* 0 0
Keller misses an important point. We're
in a battle for our economic life with the
Japanese and the West Germans. They pro-
duce the cars, electronics and other prod-
ucts most of us buy for their high quality
and reasonable prices. Unless educated in-
dividuals understand the trade-offs impor-


MAY 1988

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