Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

become eminent as a specialist than one whose theoretical and practical education has been confined within narrow limits.

Does a person who intends to become an oculist or a patent lawyer take a different medical or law course from one who intends to become a general practitioner? In order to become in the highest sense a specialist in the design of the superstructure only of bridges must not a man be, to a certain extent at least, a metallurgical, a hydraulic and a mechanical engineer? Certainly he must have more than even a general knowledge of these subjects. The difficulty with the average young graduate of our engineering schools is that his education is too narrow, too technical. It should at least be left broad enough to include a knowledge of the various branches of his own profession.

This criticism may be illustrated by an incident which came under the observation of the writer not long ago. In talking with a young man who was a few weeks afterwards graduated from one of our wellknown schools of engineering, and who had just been testing the efficiency of the motors and plant of an electric street car line, the effect of grades was being discussed and he turned to the writer and asked, "How do you find the grade of a street?” Schools of course cannot always be held responsible for the idiosyncracies of individual students or graduates, but one could not help drawing the conclusion in this instance, that the course taken by the young man had been so warped in the direction of his specialty as to leave him ignorant of elementary principles of engineering which should have been ground into him, and without a knowledge of which his professional usefulness would be greatly curtailed. It is further to be remembered in this connection that much the greater number of engineers are not specialists, and that a large number of students who take courses leading in special directions afterward drift into other branches of the profession.

It may be said in general that the engineer is not liberally educated. Beyond his profession, his knowedge is not generally great. The writer believes the statement that the average man in any of the other professions is better informed on non-professional subjects to be a true one. The main reason is not hard to find. Very few of the young men entering our technical schools have had other than a rudimentary education. Very few indeed have had the advantage of an academic training.

. Even those who could readily afford to give their sons such a course, as a preliminary to one at an engineering school, will not generally do so. They are too eager to get them at work. This is a mistake, and until the school of engineering is recognized as a post-graduate one, it can hardly be expected that the engineer will take the rank among liberally educated men to which his professional work justly entitles him.

Recapitulating, it is thought that many schools add technical courses for the sake of having many courses and without making sufficient additions to their corps of instructors; that some of them, most of which are included in the class above referred to, give what should be called an elementary engineering education, but without using this qualifying prefix in their schedules; that others, from a mistaken notion that they can send forth full-fledged professional men, err by spending too much time on so called practical courses at the expense of that careful mathematical training so essential to the engineer; that some of them do not sufficiently recognize the radical difference between the school of engineering and the trade school; and that others specialize too much and do not in consequence give that broad foundation essential to the highest success. Finally, it is thought that to attain the best results a technical course should be taken only after the student has had the advantage of an academic training.

It is very easy to criticise, and the tone of the criticisms made above would seem to indicate that in the opinion of the writer the tendencies in engineering education to-day are largely unfavorable. Such is far from being the case. It was desired to point out very briefly certain of the more important weaknesses in some schools and systems, but it was not intended to convey the idea that these faults existed universally. Some of them do exist in each of the schools to a greater or less extent, but if one intimately acquainted with the methods pursued to-day in many of the better schools remembers that the first class ever graduated from a school of engineering in any English speaking country took up their professional work in 1835, and if he will compare the methods and courses of that time with those of the present day he will be obliged to admit that in this country technical instruction has kept pace with the general advancement in professional knowledge. A prospectus of the school referred to issued in that year gives the information that "the degree of Civil Engineer will be conferred on candidates of seventeen years and upwards who are well qualified in that department.” Also that “one year is sufficient to obtain the degree” and that “graduates of colleges may by close application succeed in obtaining it in twenty-four weeks." These quotations show strikingly what advances have been made since that time. Improvements in the quality and methods of instruction are continually taking place. The schools are being brought more and more in contact with the profession. It is recognized that the instructors in the technical departments must themselves be familiar with professional work. And although not a tendency in engineering education, a most favorable augury which renders certain its growth and extension lies in the admission on the part of the profession of the necessity of the schools, and the constantly extending realization on the part of the people that a scientific education is the most fitting one for many of the pursuits of life.

COMPARISON BETWEEN AMERICAN AND EUROPEAN METHODS IN ENGINEERING EDUCATION.

BY GEO. F. SWAIN.

Professor of Civil Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

Boston.

When invited several months ago to write a paper upon the above topic for presentation to this Congress the writer accepted in the hope that he might be able to devote sufficient time to the matter to prepare an essay of some completeness. Circumstances beyond his control, however, have conspired to prevent. A full discussion of this subject presupposes, of course, an intimate acquaintance with the methods in use in the various European countries as well in the various schools of this country. With the latter the writer is perhaps fairly well acquainted. Of the former his personal acquaintance is limited to the methods in use in Germany many years ago; and the time at his disposal has not enabled him to collect detailed information or statistics regarding present methods in the various schools of that country, or in those of France and England. With the schools of England, in fact, the author of this paper is so little acquainted that he must entirely exclude them from consideration, while his knowledge of the the French schools is limited to what can be derived from the various pamphlets issued by

« ÖncekiDevam »