JS-Kit/Echo comments for article at http://smallestminority.blogspot.com/2010/09/dumbing-down-of-america.html (24 comments)

  Tentative mapping of comments to original article, corrections solicited.

jsid-1284931646-717  Doom at Sun, 19 Sep 2010 21:27:32 +0000

From what I have seen in engineering college, at least the two I have experienced, students are picked to pass or fail.  Those who are wanted are retained, those who are not will fail.  I guarantee it.  I did see a lot of cheating.  I tried to work with other students, no matter how hard we worked it didn't seem to do much good which adds to some suspicions about my 'future' (in academic circles, I think I would do fine if I got through school).  Yes, maybe I whine, maybe I am paranoid.  And, just maybe, I am correct.  Conservatives, hard workers, and those who try to hook up and actually learn seem not to need to apply.

I am also guessing that the push is on, even more now than then, to change the curriculum to favor how females learn... to the exclusion of men.  This has been the case for some time, but now that title IX (is it?) has been applied to the hard sciences, mathematics, and engineering, it is an allout assault on men.  To be frank, men and the male way of thinking ARE engineering and the rest.  Feminizing it is like trying to make soldiers genteel. 

Further, I had more trouble getting any real information so as to learn the material in college than I can believe.  School, to my mind, is an impedement to learning and yet is a required one to get into that field (engineering).  This effect may be due to what some may say I am paranoid about (being deselected based on politics), or it may just be that colleges and universities really have become totally out of step with what they are supposed to do and with how to do it.

I am considering going back into it.  I am at a different place.  I guess my concern is academia is the McEducation system no matter where you attempt to get your knowledge nuggets, bad is bad no matter which state one lives.  That is my take on things.  Good luck with teh replicmeints.  Doh!

jsid-1284939543-884  Sarah at Sun, 19 Sep 2010 23:39:04 +0000 in reply to jsid-1284931646-717

Doom, I run into this problem with male vs. female ways of thinking in my courses. When I taught Modern Physics I got horrible reviews from the female students and glowing reviews from the male students. When asked questions in class, I would never tell students the answer, but instead would show them how to answer it themselves. The males in the class learned to become self-sufficient; the females in the class thought this meant I didn't know the material.

I am a part-time professor and not on the tenure track, so course evaluations mean nothing to me. But if I was on the tenure track, there would be a lot of pressure to change the course to suit the female way of thinking, since most of my students are female. Based on my experiences, I suspect many professors are likewise (consciously or unconsciously) changing the way they teach to suit the majority. I don't care what the PC notion is about men and women being equal, in general they do not think/operate the same way. The male way is more conducive to engineering and scientific research; but as you said, there is an all-out assault on men.

jsid-1284932519-637  NMM1AFan at Sun, 19 Sep 2010 21:42:33 +0000

I've long thought about that.  When I was at a large aerospace contractor, I was disappointed to see that there was absolutely no evidence of younger engineers being apprenticed to the old timers.  The only experience I had like that was one senior optical engineering consultant, I actually learned more from the few meetings I had with him than I did the whole four years I was there...

I think it's a symptom of corporations interested in only buying talent, not growing talent for the long term.  Most corporations can't plan any further than the next quarter anyway.


jsid-1284938878-223  Ed "What the" Heckman at Sun, 19 Sep 2010 23:27:58 +0000

"I think it's a symptom of corporations interested in only buying talent, not growing talent for the long term."

Many companies are also frequently concerned about training their competition.

jsid-1284950689-373  Mastiff at Mon, 20 Sep 2010 02:44:49 +0000 in reply to jsid-1284938878-223

That's an important point, and it's been identified by scholars like Kathleen Thelen as one of the major reasons why the American labor force tends to avoid specialized training, when compared to say Germany.

In Germany, most skilled tradesmen are in long-term contracts with their employers, who have agreements not to poach from each other. (Similar agreements are illegal in the United States, as Apple and Google are presently rueing.) Thus, they can safely train their employees without fear of losing all their investment when the employees jump ship.

The flip side is that while Germans are very good at continuous innovation for this reason, they tend to suffer at disruptive innovation, which is what we are known for precisely because of the flexibility of our labor force.

Ultimately, I suspect, Americans will lose these skills but won't care as much because we'll just do it with robots.

jsid-1284952866-253  khbaker at Mon, 20 Sep 2010 03:21:06 +0000 in reply to jsid-1284950689-373

But as Old NFO notes, some of those critical things can't be automated.

jsid-1285096961-871  rocinante at Tue, 21 Sep 2010 19:22:42 +0000 in reply to jsid-1284938878-223

OTOH, if you take compensate your employees fairly and treat them as something other than interchangable cogs, they won't leave after you've invested lots of money training them.  (Well, some will, but those are the disloyal ones in the first place.)

The architecture firm with which I worked for 20 years very nearly missed the transition to CAD because management was soooo paranoid that the interns would learn AutoCAD and then go elsewhere.  If that'd happen, they'd've been out of business pretty soon afterward....

jsid-1284950717-818  ZendoDeb at Mon, 20 Sep 2010 02:45:19 +0000

Those 50, 60 and older engineers/Ph.D's/etc. made half the population feel unwelcome. (Women and blacks need not apply... at least that was how it was for a very long time.)

I have a degree in mathematics. Physics was too insane (I spent a summer studying nuclear structures at a national lab. When I got back in the fall I switched to math.)

I spent part of one year working in a small engineering firm as a technician. The work the engineers were doing was dead boring. And this was a fairly high-tech company in its day. (That was I didn't get an engineering degree.)

Sure, the state of the education system sucks. That is the product of that generation - those 50 and 60 year-olds. (Who let the Left have unquestioned control of everything from grade schools to college campuses to the news media?)

For that matter, who instituted the culture of instant gratification? (Hint: it isn't the kids just graduating from college.)  Who lost everything in the dot com insanity? Then who turned around and said "you can't lose money in real estate" and lost what little they had left in real estate?  (Hint: It isn't the kids just graduating from college.)

jsid-1284954530-991  Dean in Az at Mon, 20 Sep 2010 03:48:51 +0000

I started an engineering major when I started to attended university, but when I discovered that many, if not most, companies esentially expect you to live your life for the company (10-12 hour days the routine, seven days a week not unusual, etc.). It's not what I wanted out of life. It is in part the new role of women and minorities, and some discrimination and bias that existed (mostly) in the past, but it's also people wanting to have a life and not just work, work, work. That paradigm is especially strong in engineering, and I think a lot of smart folks who were seeking higher education in the 80's and 90's rejected it and because bankers, stockbrokers, and financiers instead. M-F 9-5 is pretty appealing when the paycheck is still there.

I went into the biological sciences instead.

jsid-1284988086-110  Jeff the Baptist at Mon, 20 Sep 2010 13:08:06 +0000

Dunno, we've been phasing in new engineers/analysts to replace the old ones here over the past 5-10 years.  One of the things we've found doing this is that a lot of the older engineers' skill set actually can be automated or streamlined, just not by the older engineers.  The young whippersnappers get computers a lot better than the older ones and using them to run and organize data can get you the 80-90% solution to a lot of things.

What you really miss is the experience.  When you lose the people that remember the old mistakes, you end up repeating them.  Unless you've made an effort to transition old documentation to electronic versions, you also start to lose old data as the people who generated it retire.

"Similar agreements are illegal in the United States, as Apple and Google are presently rueing."

They can't make anti-poaching agreements with each other as they're anti-competitive.  They can make agreements with their employees saying "if we put you through school/training you have to stay here for X amount of time to pay us back for it."

jsid-1284993213-174  Matt at Mon, 20 Sep 2010 14:33:33 +0000

Jeff's right on the employer agreements in the sense they can have you sign such a contract.  Usually said contract includes a clause that if you leave before X time is up, you owe the company the whole amount of schooling, training, etc.

I had such an agreement with an employer many years ago when I first came to the USA.

Why can't companies sign potential long-term asset employers to 20 year deals along those lines?  Essentially create company men or women.  Why can't we have the corporate archologies of science fiction.

My employer is culturally like that now.  You can't really advance until you've been here five years.  They encourage the long view in terms of career along 20-30-40 year timeframes.  There are quite a few people here in my immediate vicinity who've been here 20 or 30 years and that is not uncommon.  If my employer put a contract in front of me saying they'll employ me for the next 20-25 years in exchange for X, Y and Z, I would sign it happily.

I'm also fortunate that I work for a very large non-profit and not beholden to shareholders on a quarterly basis.  We still need to answer for our balance sheets are always under scrutiny but for the most part operate on the long view.  I wish more corporations did so.

jsid-1284994264-435  theirritablearchitect at Mon, 20 Sep 2010 14:51:04 +0000

This situation can work in reverse, as it were. At least in my experience.

I can't count how many times I've had to tell BOTH of my principals/founders that just because they've, "been doing it that way for 40 years," that it doesn't make it (fill in the blank here) correct. This is the way of things; provably wrong assumptions about how things work, all the way to detailing that, frankly, any 2nd-year student should know is wrong. Can't teach some old dogs new tricks, or even how to do the trick the right way.

You guessed right if you gave half a second at speculating that the two of them are committed, party-voting Donks.

jsid-1284999738-455  Mark D at Mon, 20 Sep 2010 16:22:22 +0000

Not an engineer, but a computer programmer.  Been doing it for 25 years and I'm VERY good at it.  A few years ago I wound up reporting to a fresh-faced MBA (who went to the same school as our new boss).  He ran head-on into the concept of a "variable length record" (RECFM=VB for the old JCL-heads like me).

Him: So the fields are blank

Me: No, the record ends there, there are no fields.

Him: Oh, so the fields are hidden

Me: No, they're not hidden, they don't exist

Him: So those fields are missing

Me: No, they're not missing, they're not supposed to be there, that record type doesn't require them.

Him: So where are the fields?

Me: There are no fields in those columns, the record ends there.

Him: So the fields are blank?

Me: I should've joined the Marines.

jsid-1285003919-993  Chad K at Mon, 20 Sep 2010 17:32:00 +0000

Disclaimer: You is used collectively here, mainly in reference to a generation.  This was originally posted as a comment to the original atricle, and as such aimed at baby boomers.

Coming from the flip side, I'm an engineer with close to 10 years experience. I started out of school working for a major defense contractor. Of the five years I was there, I never got paid more (when you look at it in $/hr). The first couple raises mirrored inflation, and then we got health care costs pushed back on us. By the time I made it to a senior engineer I was working more hours so I really didn't make any more per hour. To get ahead the conventional wisdom was you had to leave the company, go somewhere else and come back later. The process in the company is designed to retard growth and not reward those who excel. They tried to put lipstick on it, but it boiled down to, "we treat you good enough to keep you here, and no more."

I left that for a stint running a lab at a major university. There I saw the ugly side of academia. After a few years of that I knew I had to move on. I looked around and had an offer from a different defense contractor to be one of the graybeard trainees, to soak up all their knowledge. The locale wasn't the best. When I looked at the "benefits" I was put off. When I got an offer, I told them I needed at least $10k more before I would even bother to see if I could keep my standard of living. The wouldn't budge.

Instead of doing that, I sold my home and moved back closer to family for the support (for me, my wife and kids) while I try my hat at consulting and contract design.

There's a myriad of reasons why there's only graybeards left at a lot of engineering companies. While many complain about these kids, which is a valid critique of many of them, remember you created the world they live in. You created the world where the only way to get ahead in America is by selling something or being in business. Creating something of value doesn't get rewarded that well. Oppressing the hireling pays much better. You created a system where academia is into itself more than education. You created a system where you have to be morally bankrupt to win a bid. You created and perpetuated a system that at all levels of government and industry promised entitlements that are paid for by theft from future citizens/employees.

With the system you created, why should someone go do something hard like engineering when the real money is made being an #$% in business, both foreign and domestically. Why do engineering when those same people are going to offshore your job. Why go into defense when the government is going to have to cut it to pay for entitlements? Why go into engineering when what you may design goes against what this country was founded on? Why go into anything when the government will take care of you, because it's not your fault?

When you gripe about these darn kids, remember this isn't a stateless machine. They are a function of what is input into them, and that's all you baby. What have you done to turn back the erosion of the constitution for the last 100 years? What have you done to save our sovereignty from being outsourced to SE Asia? The problems are coming to a head on your generations watch. Some of you are getting religion now that it's time to go out to pasture, I mean retirement. Where was that when you were 30 and starting your family, if you had one?

If we're going to clean up this system, it's not going to be by doing the same thing your generation did. That's what got us here. That's why you don't see a lot of us in corporate USA engineering. It's called conscientious objections. Do you think it might have anything to do with why so many extremists are engineers?

... and if any of you need quality RF electronics designed and built, give me a buzz

jsid-1285007392-99  khbaker at Mon, 20 Sep 2010 18:29:53 +0000

Chad, I think you missed the point of my post.  It wasn't a rant against the kids, but the system that has made them what they are - and that's exactly what you're complaining about.

jsid-1285018083-225  ZendoDeb at Mon, 20 Sep 2010 21:28:03 +0000

Being without hope for the new generation is not a new thing.... The Greeks were constantly worried about it.

“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on
frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond
words… When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of
elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and
impatient of restraint” (Hesiod, 8th century BC).

Plato (450BC or so) had a similar quote, and I think Cicero - of the Roman Empire, not the Chicago suburb - had simliar bad things to say about the "youth of the day."

jsid-1285112203-337  Mastiff at Tue, 21 Sep 2010 23:36:43 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285018083-225

Yes, yes, but occasionally such fears are well-founded.

My college-age cousin recently spent a year in Argentina. The way he described the youth culture there is frightening. They have collectively decided that their country is screwed and nothing can be done about it, so life is all about momentary pleasures like endless clubbing and drugs, and fractured group affiliations around clothing style and music bands. You can be killed in the streets for affiliating with the wrong kind of music.

Trotting out the Greeks is a useful reality-check; it is not license to ignore reality.

jsid-1285019425-576  Mark Horning at Mon, 20 Sep 2010 21:50:28 +0000

I'm reminded about how we hear constently that we are not training enough Aerospace engineers, and how the Aero/Defense contractors are very worried about it.  At the same time, they (the Boeings and Lokheeds of hte world) only hire folks with 5+ years experience from the competition and you can still make more money as an entry level code monkey.

As a Physicist who works for a major defense contractor, my advice to the youth of today, become a Plumber. You will make more than an engineer, and they can't off-shore your job.

jsid-1285023588-61  GrumpyOldFart at Mon, 20 Sep 2010 22:59:48 +0000

When you gripe about these darn kids, remember this isn't a stateless machine. They are a function of what is input into them, and that's all you baby. What have you done to turn back the erosion of the constitution for the last 100 years? What have you done to save our sovereignty from being outsourced to SE Asia? The problems are coming to a head on your generations watch. Some of you are getting religion now that it's time to go out to pasture, I mean retirement. Where was that when you were 30 and starting your family, if you had one?

I'm a trifle too young to be one of the baby boomers, but I'll take a swing at this one. Where was I? At 30? Well yeah, I'm 52 and I've been fighting this fight for easily 20 years, and losing. My son felt bad when he told me that as much as he loves me, he doesn't want to turn out like I have. I told him good, I don't want him to either. I tried to keep my integrity and in the process lost practically everything that puts me above poverty level. Fine and good, I paid that price willingly, but I won't wish it on my son. I want him to keep his integrity and still succeed.

Otherwise, why would I have bothered fighting this fight all these years?

jsid-1285081286-970  LeverAction at Tue, 21 Sep 2010 15:01:27 +0000

As a Physicist who works for a major defense contractor, my advice to the youth of today, become a Plumber. You will make more than an engineer, and they can't off-shore your job.

I'm an Electrical Engineer myself and i tell my own children a similar thing - don't think you have to get a college degree to have a good life.  Where I live I'm surrounded by tradesmen - plumbers, electricians, masons, etc... - who all do far better than I monetarily.  No doubt this is in part because I've chosen to stay here where I'm confortable instead of chasing the money and relocating my family to more urban environs.  But also, as I tell them, people will always need water, electricity, septic services - society has gotten very used to these conveniences and will shell out much quicker to keep the water running then they will for a new cool electronic gadget.  I tell them there's no shame in becoming a contractor - if you're good then you'll have a better standard of living than your old man had.

jsid-1285083425-703  Tam at Tue, 21 Sep 2010 15:37:07 +0000

Was driving with Shootin' Buddy a few weeks ago. We stopped at a traffic light pretty much smack up against the Purdue University campus. I looked around andcommented, "Dude, I feel like a gwailo. We are literally the only round-eyes in sight"

He said "Welcome to summer semester at Purdue."

jsid-1285113312-341  DirtCrashr at Tue, 21 Sep 2010 23:55:12 +0000

Or an Electrician.  But you have to make the decision sufficiently early.  Aftre my third layoff and almost ten yaers out of College I tried to get ito the Plumbers Union and took a placement test - I was eighth on the list.  Five years later I was fifth.  Ten years later I waas second and working on a third career in UI design.  Old plumbers don't die fast enough - so I recommend the career based on longevity aspects alone...

jsid-1285132338-97  Laughingdog at Wed, 22 Sep 2010 05:12:18 +0000

We have a similar problem where I work.  But the problem there is that there was a RIF (reduction in force) in the early 90s, which included a layoff of most people hired after 1985-87 or so.  They didn't start hiring again until 98, and only at a trickle until after 2000.  So, in our case, it's not that the newer employees are spoiled, but that there's a huge knowledge gap.  In the branch where I work, most have either 25+ years of experience, or less than 5.  With those having more than 25 years being close to retiring, there's a painful decade coming up.

jsid-1285339222-280  Jeroen Wenting at Fri, 24 Sep 2010 14:40:27 +0000

For decades Hollywood (and western governments) have pumped the people full of nonsense about how all science is bad, all scientists and engineers are madmen who want to destroy the world, how the only way to be "kewl" is to be a lazy no-gooder who's only interested in sports and chicks/guys.
They have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in creating a society where very few people are at all interested in following a career in engineering or hard science, and those that do are ridiculed and victimised by everyone around them.
Bullies get active approval for their practices from schools, their victims are branded "anti-social" and pushed into ever greater despair. If they crack we have school shootings which are only used to further the agenda of how "the science geek" was a "dangerous psychopath", the lesson being that you shouldn't let yourself in with such people and instead hang around the gym to woo the cheerleaders and guys on sports scholarships.

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