We need more folks getting involved, Bob - it was so good to read about your involvement as a mentor and your local engineering club. Thank you so much for doing that! During my son's short stint at the charter school, I hosted a robotics club (the science teacher was thrilled - I actually came into the classroom during science time once a week for the club meeting) and I also coordinated a district wide science fair for all of the charter schools in our district. Charter schools simply don't have the money or resources or "want to," so it's up to parents and members of the community to get involved. Most people are happy to do so and enjoy sharing knowledge, but it usually needs someone to organize it. We can't always depend on our school systems for quality educations anymore but we need to take responsibility and do something about it - and pass our same solid American values on to the next generation, instead of the complacency and laziness that is epidemic in our country today-children learn what they are taught...Hmmm...I think you were mentioning something about a soapbox earlier...
P.S. I am also a teacher at a college and it amazes me at the difference in work ethic between the younger and the older students!
I agree, Nancy. Math and science, in particular, are getting short shrift in American schools, which is why so many engineering students now come to us from outside the U.S. I can't prove this, but I believe that it's largely because so many people -- teachers included -- don't have any idea what engineers do, or what an engineering curriculum involves.
Notarboca--I certainly agree. I am an online mentor for "We Teach Science Foundation" and really appreciate the service they provide to interface with students interested in STEM subjects. Also, our Chattanooga Engineers' Club actively supports visits by engineers to local schools to encourage students considering engineering professions. It's amazing to me how few adults and students really understand what engineers do. I actually had one little guy (about 16) ask me "what train company" I was the engineer for. He was drop-dead serious.
Nancy--I could not agree with you more. My wife and I have three sons, all in their 30s and 40s. There is a HUGE difference between the work required then as opposed to right now. I see that with our five (5) grandchildren. The homework given is, at most, less than an hour each night and absolutely none during the weekend. There is no "grind"--no challenge, consequently no great reward. Efforts with math and communication skills produce children not really equipped to go forward. My grandchildren go to (seemingly) good public schools for this drivel. Have you ever looked at your son's history books? I'm 71 years old and have lived through quite a bit of history. I do remember "what am and what ain't". The garbage presented is replete with incorrect dates, incorrect motives, etc etc. Home schooling just might be the only real "out" for future generations. (OK-I'm off my soap box now.)
I have to agree here - there is very little rigor in high school and I believe it is hurting the students. I am constantly amazed that my teenage boys do not have homework and I am afraid they will be ill-prepared for college. The growth of charter schools is compounding the problem. My son was in a charter school for seventh grade that did not have any textbooks for the science class - the teacher was just scrounging for material. I took him out and wound up homeschooling him the rest of the semester. We do have some good STEM options at the high school level which is encouraging. I think options are important in high school so that kids have an opportunity to explore what they are interested in, to see if that is something they want to pursue after graduation.
You're right about the admissions preference, Dave. I stated it very poorly. Given students of equal background, the Illinois student will always get the nod over the foreign student. However, the frequent complaint has been that foreign students are getting admitted at a higher rate at the University of Illinois than at other Illinois schools. According to U.S. News & World Report, U of I has 8% international students, while Southern Illinois University has 2%, Northern Illinois has 1%, Western Illinois has 1%, Eastern Illinois has 0%, etc. This is because the University of Illinois is a better school, academically. It's where the good foreign students want to go. But it's also where the good Illinois students want to go. The complaints occur when good students who are Illinois residents (i.e., Illinois taxpayers) get bumped by students who aren't Illinois taxpayers, and who may or may not remain in the country. Clearly, U of I's policies are part and parcel of what makes it a better school, but it's hard to blame taxpayers for wondering. Sorry for the way I stated it in my earlier comment.
What the government needs to do to point more people to the technical side is to return to closer regulation of the financial side. The financial folks make a lot more money thann the engineers do, and for actions that don't benefit society nearly as much.
About the engineering salary surveys: it seems obvious that data from the southeastern Michigan area is not included, or else that a whole lot of folks are simply lying! A whole broad spectrum of engineers don't get anything near that big pay.
Really, the prime way to get more people into our area is to make it pay better, a huge majority of folks will select careers based on how much they pay, which is probably a reasonable means of making a choice. So if the financial industry is regulated a bit more so that they are a bit less profitable, those incomes will drop and engineering will have a better chance. Of course, the added benefit is that the financial weasels might not be able to damage our economy like they did a couple of years back. WE are still not recovered form that disaster.
@RaceTruck: I was able to work my way through college from 2001 - 2005 without taking on any debt, starting in a community college and moving to a four-year private university. Having a 4.0 GPA through two years of community college allowed me to get a 50% tuition scholarship. Government grants (state and federal) paid for another 30% or so of my tuition. I was able to pay for the remainder myself by working full time and living with my parents.
I'm not sure whether this would be possible even now, less than a decade later. The cost of college attendance has gone up a lot in the past few years. I suspect that more students chosing to go to community colleges will exert a downward pressure on tuiton costs of four-year institutions.
@ Dave Palmer I also went the JC route, infinitely cheaper and at least in today's world probably better instructors.
Only problem I saw with foreign students was they tend to form teams to do homework. I parially supported myself by being a reader for engineering classes after I took them. It is pretty obvious when homework is done by a team. Most Prof's didn't penalize them, saying the penalty occurs naturally on the Midterms and Finals.
How can we lower cost of an Engineering degree? I worked my way through by working a summer + a semester and going to school for a semester. Doesn't look like you could do this currently.
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