One Engineer's Manifesto!

I wrote this editorial years agos (about 1988). The concerns
expressed continue to grow:

Engineers Turn Good Ideas into Good Sense

The continuing efforts by academia and other professions to map
the Profession to a particular set of course work indicates that
we are still needed - not to provide the definition for that
curriculum, but to provide a perspective, and a vision for the
future! Those of us who really do carry on that vision, continue
a tradition which has brought the world from the dark ages into
the present. The Profession does not represent a kind of
practical application of science. Professional Engineers are a
minority of the Engineering Profession, and this should continue.
The title of PE is earned by demonstrating a focus on currently
accepted practices, when these practices are by their very nature
transitory, like the world around us.

Engineers build cultures. We provide the sensible blueprints by
which we continue to recreate the world, and we are our only
tools. Former generations rightly separated Engineers from the
Draftsman, the Technician, the Architect, and the Operating
Engineer. These titles should be a matter of pride to those who
qualify, but none of them are Engineers, however many
Corporations designate them as such, nor however many
Universities grant them Engineering Degrees. Now we have the
Computer Programmer, who is not an Engineer, although quite a few
Systems Analysts are!

When our culture stops producing Engineers, and instead succeeds
in identifying these other professions as Professional Engineers;
when being an Engineer means having completed the accepted
curriculum, rather than having created a lasting monument to the
Age - our culture will have passed into history. The Profession
has witnessed this throughout history: Egyptians built massive
structures to exacting specifications while there culture was
replaced; Romans built excellent roads and aqueducts while their
culture was replaced; and medieval Masons produced wonderful
Cathedrals while their culture was replaced. The details are not
where the Profession should focus. We must focus on our vision,
but know where to find the facts and standards. When a culture
begins to insist that a set curriculum is a prerequisite for
building a vision, a new vision will appear - in the form of
Engineers who will build the new world.

The Engineering Degree must remain an indication that the
recipient was taught how to become an Engineer. It does not
indicate that the recipient is an Engineer yet. Changes to the
curricula of Engineering Schools are undermining the ability of
our culture to focus on improvement. The Engineering student
today is expected to learn material which will be obsolete within
a few years, but is not taught how to keep up with the various
fields which comprise our Profession. The answer to this dilemma
is a return to a focus on fundamentals, not a move to longer
matriculation, separated from the world we must continue to
build. Teach 'em how to learn, and throw 'em into the fray!
Don't try to teach them what to do, that's what they'll be
teaching us before long - if they are really Engineers.

A widely recognized level of achievement is the appropriate
measure of success for Engineers. Recognition of individuals by
their Professional Society as a Senior Member is one form of
recognition. Being asked more than once to present their views
at a gathering of their peers is another. A continuing level of
accomplishment, as recognized by employers who continue to value
their contributions - not advancement, but just "holding on"
demonstrates success. Most important is being able to point to
things tangible - and honestly say those things would not be
there, if not for their vision.


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