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College Isn't for Learners

In a very interesting and disturbing post at The Coffeelicious web site Tyler O'Briant posts a four minute read article that will really  make you think. Check it out at https://medium.com/the-coffeelicious/college-isn-t-for-learners-3ea69952fdbe#.nyh0lxqwg .

In the piece Tyler says, "I’m studying engineering out of genuine interest and nothing more. The system in place is almost built solely in opposition to this, however.

"You start with two years (at least) of courses built to weed out the ‘non-serious’ students, but are also filled to the brim with useless material and (often) even more useless TAs who couldn’t relate it to you in terms of how it will impact your future work if their graduate degree depending on it. Differential Equations, a class I’ll be using next semester in circuit theory is the pinnacle of this. After 100 hours of studying and working on assignments in this course I have yet to see one practical payoff of the material that couldn’t be taught solely in how it applies to my classwork in the future."

I am reminded first of the notions surrounding calculus as a pump not a filter and regrettably it still is a filter. The calculus and science courses that are prerequisites for engineering students do nothing to whet their appetites for engineering. Indeed, all too often the pre-engineering curriculum of science, and even engineering science,  try to show how "physicists" or "chemists" or "mathematicians" think.  Well, engineers need to see and experience how "engineers" think. So why don't we encourage them, entice them, draw them to engineering during these first two formative (or destructive if you believe Tyler) years?

Then there is the second damning sentence above, "Differential Equations, a class I’ll be using next semester in circuit theory is the pinnacle of this. After 100 hours of studying and working on assignments in this course I have yet to see one practical payoff of the material that couldn’t be taught solely in how it applies to my classwork in the future." This is where we come in at SIMIODE. Why do we tolerate this situation?  Why do we not motivate the mathematics of differential equations in an engineering context, at least one that offers  a science context?  Well, we at SIMIODE are trying to support the Tyler's of the world who would go deeper into engineering than pre-engineering course work, who would actually become engineers, and who would be productive, if only we would show them how the basic mathematics and science relates to engineering so they would be motivated to keep going. Indeed, often some schools do not permit students to take engineering courses until their junior year. Imagine slogging through two years of unmotivational science and mathematics before you actually see what engineering is about!

Tyler exhibits in his piece grit and determination to do just that, slog through this course work and finish his electrical engineering degree. However, if you read his piece you will see that  his passion has shifted away from practicing engineering, perhaps due to the lure of business and enterprise, but just perhaps it has shifted because of the bad taste we in mathematics have left in Tyler. We need to think long and hard about the Tyler's in our classrooms and then do something about this situation. SIMIODE is one such "do."

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