There is a need for “Scientists” in the Humanities

 

Dan Edelstein’s article “How Is Innovation Taught? On the Humanities and the Knowledge Economy” does raise an important reality that “In the face of limited resources, administrators and policy makers are urged to invest more in science, engineering, and technology programs (Goldin and Katz 2008); meanwhile, liberal arts colleges are on their way to becoming an endangered species (goodbye, Antioch!).” While there is much funding in the STEM fields, from personal experiences, I know having a sole STEM mindset is not innovative. There is a need for “Scientists” in the Humanities. As an environmental engineer, all of my work translate to affecting society. For example, I worked on a research project that evaluated consumer confidence reports. For those who don’t know what these reports are, they are  reports that contain information on the quality and safety of tap drinking water. They are mandated by the USEPA to be delivered to water customers every year. Unfortunately, my research found that most of these reports were not well written and the clarity of message communication was poor throughout. As a result, a team of environmental engineers and “scientists” from humanities field collaborated to offer improvements to the readability and clarity of these reports. Without the training I had in my Science, Technology & Society course, it would have been difficult for me to communicate my work in a way that will benefit water customers. What is the point of the work I do in water quality and safety if I can’t effectively bridge that gap between me and society? I totally agree that,” the humanities provide students with the best opportunities for learning how to innovate.”

 

Cons with Evolving Technologies

The article, “The Myth of the Disconnected Life,” by Forman raises many good points concerning the cons that comes with technological advances. Even though some technologies are designed to improve our quality of life and benefit society, some negative implications include disconnecting with reality and people, increasing environmental pollution, and compromising humanity.

Technology, like cellphones, certainly fits the mold of causing disconnection from reality and people. It does make our lives easier, but it has also cause us to constantly be in our phones, not paying attention to where we are walking or even driving, and not appreciating the people in front of us, especially at the dinner table.

Environmental pollution is also a major concern. With forever evolving technologies, it also comes with endless technological waste. Most aging technologies end up in landfills or shipped overseas for disposal. Additionally, the batteries used to power our devices contain toxic heavy metals and often end up polluting our environment, especially water ways during production.

What I mean about technology that compromise humanity is that many technology companies contract their production overseas where workers are paid poorly and forced to work in poor conditions. Furthermore, lots of the waste from electronics end up in underdeveloped countries where regulations are more lenient.

Thus, I totally agree with Forman’s statement, “While historical comparisons are important to contextualize our culture’s reaction to emerging technologies, there is something unique about our digital devices, especially the ones we have on us at all times like our smartphones. These technologies seem to offer a more compelling example for those who want us to disconnect from technology.” But will we be able to give up our cellphones all together? Highly doubt it.

Memorization is not teaching

The passage that stood out to me the most in Chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire was, “It is not surprising that the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings. The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world. The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them.”

The reason why this passage stood out so much was because I felt like I was not properly prepared by my high school teachers into entering college. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe I had a good education growing up 30 minutes outside the nation’s capital, but there were many key skills that I was never taught and had a steep learning curve my first year in college. First off, Virginia public schools are all about Standard of Learning (SOL) assessments. This forces our educators to stick to a set curriculum and impose memorization skills rather than critical thinking skills. When it came time for me apply my thoughts in writing my first college essay, I was not the best at articulating my thoughts, and it did not help that I was more so a math and science person; I failed miserably. Furthermore, the type of memorization training I had in high school initially hindered my engineering education. I was so used to memorizing equations and how to solve math problems that when I was faced with an engineering question that required me to apply those skills, I did not know where to start. Of course, I soon adapted to the way teaching should have been done during my high school career, but I also saw a lot of my peers struggle and ultimately quit engineering programs to switch to less vigorous disciplines or drop out of college all together. We must change our philosophy on teaching methods in order to create a generation that is more so critical to solving complicated worldly problems that do not have direct black or white solutions.

Embracing Diversity = Amazing Results

I wholeheartedly agree with the article, “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter,” by Katherine Phillips. Not only does she tackle the benefits of diversity from a business perspective, but she challenges the notion from a social aspect. Growing up in Northern Virginia, which surrounds the DC metropolitan area, I have been blessed with the opportunity to experience many different cultures, races, foods, sports, and entertainment to just name a few. Additionally, my educational training was above average even though I went to a public school. The diversity among the students, staff, and teachers contributed to the success of the educational level offered and also challenged me to think outside of the box as cliche as it sounds. Growing up with diversity has definitely contributed to my success as a first generation college student.

Phillips’ statement, “The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving,” stands out greatly for me. As an environmental engineer, we collaborate among scientists and engineers across many disciplines, including biology, chemistry, physics, food science, human nutrition food and exercise, computer programming, and statistics to name a few. I had the opportunity to collaborate with food scientists halfway across the world in Portugal last year. That opportunity gave me the ability to look at my research with a whole different perspective, and resulted in a well written journal paper. All in all, never underestimate the power of diversity in all aspects of making this world a better place.

Grades are bad

I totally agree with the statement, “Grades tend to diminish students’ interest in whatever they’re learning.” I always been a good student, and always aimed for the best, and I did work hard to do well in school. However, I remember suffering from much anxiety as test time came around. I was never a good test taker even though I felt I understood the material. As a result, my grades often suffered because the weight of how much the tests were worth in the overall grade. Furthermore, I have met some students that are not good at keeping up with busy work and completing assignments on time, but they are good at taking tests, especially standardized ones. I believe the education system should focus grades more so on a per student basis. Each student has a different learning style and grades do not necessarily reflect their level of intelligence and may often may them become uninterested in learning.

Mindfulness vs. Mindlessness

I never considered the theoretical differences between mindfulness vs. mindlessness. Mindfulness is when we are actively engaged in the present. Mindlessness is when you are automated to think in the past. In research and develop and engineering advancements, engineers and scientists must actively practice mindfulness. The world of engineering, science, and technology is constantly evolving. These professionals need to be able to adapt and based their research on how it will affect today’s society. For example, I am a drinking water quality engineer, and the world of water treatment has evolved much within the last century. Drinking water treatment has evolved tremendously in the last century. In the 20th century, the focus was on the sanitary aspect of water, particularly, waterborne diseases, disinfection, and water quality. In the mid 20th century, the focus included sanitary water and safe water. These factors included VOCs/DBPs protection, more strict criteria, and water quality. Within the last decade or so of the 21st century, tastiness of water has become an important factor–this includes aesthetic problems, distribution systems, and satisfying customers. Without the mindfulness thought process, our drinking water system would not be as advanced as it is today.

Experimental Learning is Imperative

 

I really enjoyed the video from last class. I never considered the one way dialogue our society experiences during the early time of television or thought about how it limited our voices. It is amazing how social media and the internet has revolutionized our world. From social gatherings and interactions to education and informational news, the conversation is now a two-way street and every citizen can have their voices be heard. However, with every advancement, there always come negative aspects. Now that social media can easily connect people, it also can be a distraction or an easy avenue for criminal activity. Additionally, if you walked into any restaurant right now, I guarantee that 75% of the patrons would be in their phones while the other 25% are fighting for their undivided attention.

 

In the world of engineering, I agree with Kuh’s argument and believe experimental learning is imperative. In Campbell’s article, the statement, “The common denominator is a real-world context that provides deeply integrative opportunities for classroom-based learning to be applied to complex and complexly situated problems or opportunities” really stood out to me. Students can be in the classroom for years, learning about the nuts and bolts of engineering and science, but what good is their theoretical knowledge going to do when it comes to solving hands on those real world engineering issues? I can speak on this first hand as in my undergraduate engineering program, we had hand on labs and a year long capstone project. The experiences I had in labs and working hands on for my capstone project has better prepared me for my young professional career and attributed to my success as a graduate researcher. Experimental learning should be implemented throughout a student’s educational training and especially in higher education.