JJ Townsend


Thinking like an engineer isn't that great..

The Republic article about teaching STEM subjects says that the goal of the Arizona Science Center is to teach students "to identify a problem and work toward a solution -- in other words, to think more like engineers."

 Engineers do not have any corner on the market for identifying problems and working toward solutions. They do a reasonably decent job of working on the comparatively easy problems that can be solved by math, science and technology. Unfortunately, the truly hard problems that we must deal with are the messy problems of public policy, and the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines do not have a whole lot to contribute either to the definition of such problems or to viable real-world solutions. It is a good idea to encourage people to try to define a problem before they try to solve it, but "thinking like engineers" is a much too narrow an approach. We need more people with a broad understanding of history, philosophy, law, politics and human nature to address the big problems that we face now and will face in the future. We need to put more effort into understanding how to incorporate technology into an ethical and just society.