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Does It Suck To Be An Engineering Student? 971

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the what-doesn't-suck dept.
Pickens writes "Aaron Rower has an interesting post on Wired with the "Top 5 Reasons it Sucks to be an Engineering Student" that includes awful textbooks, professors who are rarely encouraging, the dearth of quality counseling, and every assignment feels the same. Our favorite is that other disciplines have inflated grades. "Brilliant engineering students may earn surprisingly low grades while slackers in other departments score straight As for writing book reports and throwing together papers about their favorite zombie films," writes Rower. "Many of the brightest students may struggle while mediocre scholars can earn top scores." For many students, earning a degree in engineering is less than enjoyable and far from what they expected. If you want to complain about your education, this is your chance."
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Does It Suck To Be An Engineering Student?

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  • NO IT DOES NOT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by warrior_s (881715) * <> on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:43PM (#22846240) Homepage Journal
    here is my summary and my thoughts

    According to the author of the article... inorder for engineering to not suck, we should have inflated grades and beautiful textbooks (whatever that it). He says that the textbooks are awful because they are thick and black and white and contain long equations (i don't know if i should laugh or what).. His other reasons are more related to the school in which he is studying and not with engineering

    Seriously ... I don't think this article is either NEWS FOR NERDS or STUFF THAT MATTERS. Clearly the author should not try to become an engineer and should switch to some other discipline where he gets inflated grades and the incorrect notion that he is bright.
  • by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:44PM (#22846256)
    that's more than i can say for my CS degree. All I learned was in spite of my education, not because of it.
  • So lets see... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by clonan (64380) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:44PM (#22846264)
    People take a hard major to be challenged and then they are upset when it is challenging!

    I wonder what the incomes of the soft majors that got all A's will look like compared to a good chemical/electrical/mechanical engineer.
  • hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:50PM (#22846350) Homepage
    "Brilliant engineering students may earn surprisingly low grades while slackers in other departments score straight As for writing book reports and throwing together papers about their favorite zombie films," writes Rower. "Many of the brightest students may struggle while mediocre scholars can earn top scores."

    Who cares? You're not competing against film majors for fellowships, scholarships, graduate programs and jobs. You're competing against other engineering majors. And honestly, the vast majority of engineering majors seem to have greatly exaggerated notions of their own brilliance; engineering profs do give out As, if you're not making them maybe you're not quite as smart as you think you are.

    I think the only majors with a higher general opinion of themselves are philosophy majors.
  • by chillax137 (612431) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:51PM (#22846364) Homepage
    The trick to staying happy is to mingle with the women on the other side of campus
  • It was (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joeflies (529536) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:53PM (#22846394)
    the best of times, and it was the worst of times.

    In my experience, engineering school isn't geared specifically for content. It's designed to teach you some basics (electronics, math, logic, assembly language in my case), and everything done above and beyond that was designed to teach you how to solve problems. I may not know how to build an amplifier anymore, but I do know how to build a circuit, simulate it, how to adjust properties, and develop an answer.

    I think the same thing goes with Calculus - Everything you did in math was done to give you the 'aha' moment that occurs when you learn derrivatives. You suffered endlessly computing deltas manually, but then you learned what a derivative is, and all of a sudden your world changed. There are other ways to solve problems. And when you realized that, then your approach to math suddenly changed - it's not about slogging through a procedure to get the answer, but to look at problems and see new ways of solving them.

    The importance of college isn't what you learn there. It's whether you learn HOW to learn.

  • Re:NO IT DOES NOT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by electrictroy (912290) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:53PM (#22846398)
    If you think the books are boring (black and white and contain long equations),

    wait until you get on your JOB. Engineering education works perfectly; it prepares you for the boredom ahead of you.

  • by SQLGuru (980662) on Monday March 24, 2008 @12:54PM (#22846410) Journal
    What I got from my CS degree is an understanding of how it all works......I already knew HOW to program (years of BASIC and PASCAL before college) and I didn't learn anything about real world projects, but because of my CS degree, I understood why languages are written the way they are (good old BNF's) and the different levels of the OSI model and algorithms (was I the only one who corrolated the O-face from Office Space with the face someone makes as they try to grasp Big-O notation during their first Algorithms class?) and, etc. None of it applies directly to what I do today, but because of that understanding, I solve problems quicker and I can communicate to the groups that I need to interact with (DBA's, Network Ops, etc.) in their own terms.

  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:04PM (#22846580) Homepage
    • ... every teacher thinks that his students may be able to improve the Navier-Stokes equations.
    • ... the dude that didn't start to study engineering now is the dude that has five years of work experience and is hiring you when you have finished.
    • ... all the beautiful girls (boys) are studying something else that doesn't require that you run your head full of formulas.
    • ... all the math involved makes you an introvert nerd.
    • ... you have a perfect understanding of what Isambard Kingdom Brunel did but can't fill in your tax form.
    • ... that you fail to understand why energy-efficient technology is taxed harder than technology that wastes energy.
    • ... you can calculate the distance to a star but fails to understand the astrological terms that the girl of your life is talking about.
    • ... you see the flawed thinking of intelligent design and find out how many jerks you are surrounded with.
    • ... people don't know what the Coanda effect and the Trench effect are.
    • ... you know why a matter changes state from warm and fluid to solid and icy but not why your girlfriend does.
    • ... you still haven't understood why not the whole world has gone metric yet.
    • ... you understand the futility of software patents.
    • ... you know how a Katana is made and why it's so good and still with all that understanding your car breaks down too often for no apparent reason.
    • ... things that you encounter that breaks down due to bad design and you see that "I could have made that better"
    • ... the guy that looked doped-up in the grammar school that got low grades in everything now is a famous artist earning millions.
    • ... you don't have a clue regarding the behavior of the stock market but you have full control over your wallet.
    • ... for a party you calculate the "bang for the bucks" party when buying the alcohol and forget about the taste.
  • by SerpentMage (13390) <> on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:07PM (#22846646)
    That's freaken arrogant and spoken from somebody who has no clue about reality. Sorry, but I am an ME (fourth generation) and studied at one of the better universities. Though I also have an artistic background (mother is an artist, father is an engineer).

    You really think Math, Science and Engineering students can make better films? BS! Try it, please I dare you to. I paint and let me tell you that to get inspiration for a painting is hard. And please don't get me started on "how I could do that in five minutes." If you think like that then you actually don't understand art.

    I graduated 15 years ago, and if there is one thing I have learned is that I wish engineering/math/science students were not so dammed arrogant!
  • Re:NO IT DOES NOT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <(Satanicpuppy) (at) (> on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:07PM (#22846648) Journal
    Typical science snobbery. Truth be told, some liberal arts people are quite accomplished in their fields, and do quality work that would be extremely to duplicate without a similar level of raw talent and time commitment.

    The problem is not those people. The problem is that those people are able to coast to an amazing degree because the grading system favors the slackers who take those classes because they don't want to work.

    So the real problem is twofold:

    One, the truly excellent students aren't getting the sort of challenge that would allow them to hone their abilities to their limits.

    Two, the quality of the whole discipline is being diluted by a bunch of crappy students doing mediocre work for a grade.

    I witnessed this in liberal arts classes, I also witnessed it in some CS classes, where incompetent coders could pass the class based solely on the curve and their ability to parrot theory on the exams. Literally. I was in a class where a programming assignment's average grade was 7 out of 100.
  • by keineobachtubersie (1244154) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:08PM (#22846660)
    "A much better solution would be to stop artificially inflating the grades of the weaker subjects."

    No, that's not any kind of solution at all.

    No one who has an opinion worth a damn will ever look at a Liberal Arts major with a 3.8 and think it's equivalent to a 3.8 in chemical engineering.

    They're not the same, it's not high school, and you're not competing against the entire student body anymore.

  • by oddaddresstrap (702574) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:10PM (#22846698)
    Freshman & sophomore years: pain in the butt!
    Junior & senior years: kicks ass!
  • by p0tat03 (985078) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:10PM (#22846700)

    Until you realize that, historically anyways, higher education is *not* vocational training. Higher education is meant to do exactly that - educate, in any subject that might tickle the learner's interests. Vocational training belongs in trade school - and I bet most engineers have too big of an ego to go to the same school as the mechanics and the plumbers.

    Disclaimer: I am an engineer, but I'm routinely frustrated with how our kind tend to think we're better than everyone else, simply because we have a starting salary higher than most other degrees (note that I said starting, this relationship doesn't hold as time goes on).

  • Re:hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tppublic (899574) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:12PM (#22846720)
    And the point is?

    I suspect the point is: Are you happy with where you are, are you pleased with what you've accomplished and would you do it over again?

    People spend far too much time comparing themselves to other people rather than looking after their own happiness. Keeping up with the Joneses isn't worth it.

  • by eggoeater (704775) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:12PM (#22846726) Journal
    I had a similar problem with several of my CS professors (I was a CS major.)
    I complained to my adviser I couldn't understand them, but he said that I should basically be more sympathetic since they probably
    had a tough time understanding me as well. I was shocked by this; I'm the student... if I don't
    understand what the prof is saying, I fail. Plus, I'm PAYING FOR THIS CLASS. A LOT!!

    One of the things that always pissed me off about academia is the sense of entitlement the professors have.

  • by stuporglue (1167677) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:18PM (#22846848) Homepage

    Every resume you send out is you marketing yourself.

    The way you dress, speak, and present yourself at the interview is you marketing yourself.

    Of those applying for a job, the ones that do a good enough job marketing themselves are the ones who will be looked at for their technical skills.

  • Re:hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <(Satanicpuppy) (at) (> on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:18PM (#22846852) Journal
    The point is that grades are effectively meaningless; if you base your happiness around an arbitrary letter (like the subby apparently did) then you're going to end up envying people whose arbitrary letter is higher, rather than experiencing envy for any sort of rational reason.

    I honestly never gave a damn about my grades. You can waste time cramming trivia and useless knowledge to ace the tests, but the true measure of your skills is in the mastery of the material, and the ability to put it to work in the real world.

    That being said, I almost always experienced more satisfaction from a difficult C than an easy A. Where is the triumph when victory is but a foregone conclusion?
  • Re:CA$H! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:19PM (#22846870)
    Well, unless they go into sales. A successful salesperson will blow away any engineers compensation.
  • Re:hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:22PM (#22846908) Homepage
    Also, one writes "book reports" in fifth grade, not in any semi-respectable university. One gets the impression Aaron Rowe never actually took a humanities class beyond perhaps the most ludicrous one he could find to satisfy a requirement. Does he think English majors make dioramas, also?

    There is a general impression on Slashdot among the more ignorant that humanities classes are a joke. I think a lot of it is based on the fact that, yes, introductory humanities classes, aimed at people just out of high school, tend to not be especially difficult. It's more likely that a science or engineering major will take these classes than the upper level ones. Taking an upper level philosophy or linguistics or history course (or even a low-level classics course) would probably disabuse them of the notion.

    Also, a lot of the science/engineering types base their opinion of humanities classes not on any firsthand knowledge but rather on third-hand accounts of what humanities classes may be, filtered through jokes, anecdotes, and misinterpretations of what some humanities professor might have said. A lot of it is alien to the engineering major; a humanities class structure is not about being told what is true and retaining it, it's about being given a lot of (oftentimes conflicting) information and synthesizing it.

    But I look forward to a day when engineering, science, and humanities majors can put aside their differences, come together in a spirit of unity, and make fun of business majors.
  • While slackers may be able to skate by in certain courses, they will not get A's forever and despite what our country's leadership might suggest, slackers generally are not that successful in their careers. Bright students, on the other hand, generally end up extremely well after the dust settles. So hang in there, my bright bretheren!
  • by oatworm (969674) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:29PM (#22846996) Homepage
    Sure, but how do you figure out which engineers are smart and which ones aren't? The answer is usually one of the following:

    1. Their CV/resume and interviews - self-marketing
    2. Hearing about their work from somewhere else - getting someone else to market you

    The entire point of marketing is to show people that you have a product to sell - it's up to them to determine whether or not it's worth buying. No product, no sale. Crappy product, initial sale, but quickly thrown out of the company.

    We need to learn that marketing is not a four-letter word.
  • by Naughty Bob (1004174) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:30PM (#22847014)
    I was careful to talk about 'his average student'. I've no doubt that there are true, budding auteur-geniuses among the media studies students. But the majority, in my experience, are not destined to make great art.

    They will, however, get better grades with less native ability. Perhaps the arrogance you feel is more often than not resentment?
  • Re:NO IT DOES NOT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:32PM (#22847056)
    Then you're in the wrong job. I love my engineering position. Some of it's a bit try (evaluating new sensors) but I get paid to build 'robots' and code them. (Ok, I do mechatronics controls, but it's just a robot).

    I was going to post something along the lines of "Wait until you get your job and they're still looking for theirs." There is a demand for intelligent engineers. How many art history majors have you had help you at Walmart?

    $60k after my first year wasn't too bad either. It's not high, and about average. Life isn't easy. How many people during the industrial revolution would have complained that 'it was hard'. Our society expects everything to be handed to them for little or no work.
  • by boris111 (837756) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:33PM (#22847060)
    if you're given a problem to solve, there's only one correct answer
    There is room for art and different innovative ways to implement a solution to a problem. You just don't get that when learning the basics of engineering. Outside of college as well as some of the advanced classes in engineering give you the opportunity to flex your creative muscles. My goal as an engineer is to design that eloquent solution.
  • by fermion (181285) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:35PM (#22847084) Homepage Journal
    With suggested answers, for those who do not wish to think.
    1. Do you want to be engineer? If the answer is not hell yes, with all my heart and soul, and I know that is more work than any other major, and I have building robots since I was 5, and I love basements, then run away, quickly. College is not high school where the students smell fear on a teacher and then bully grades out of them. Professor smell fear on freshmen, then fail them before the first week is out. This is reality. In general there are many more qualified engineering students than are needed, and no prof wants to waste time with a dumkompf. Especially those students who think that engineering to too hard should choose another major.
    2. Did you get in a state school with automatic admission? If you did not get into the school though a competitive process, if you are not at the to 20% of the exams, if you think that you are hot stuff just because you managed to eek at the top 10% of you little pond does not mean you are qualified for the privilege of engineering school, or at least not a real one.
    3. Do you like to read and do math? Again, if the answer is not yes, with all my heart, that is all I ever do, then run away fast. This does not mean that you can't drink and party and be a college kid. Some one the highest educational areas also sell the greatest amount of alcohol. But there must be a balance. I recall our class complaining to an engineering teacher who came into our midterm wearing a t-shirt from a concert held the previous night. We all complained why he got to go and we had to study. He said we could have gone if we had not waited to the last minute to study.
    4. Can you do work without supervision? This is not high school. No one is going to beg you to do work. No one wants to hear your excuses that you use to not do work. The prof is not going to do all the work for you. You might need to do all the learning yourself if you get a bad prof. That is life. Class time is at most 20% of the time you will spend learning the subject, so the prof is at most a guide to the important bits. The textbook is one resource. Motivated students who will become engineers are able to find other resources, and copy each others homework to help understand important topics.
    5. Are you, or have you ever been, a whiner. No engineering firm wants a whiner. No intelligent person who has a choice of where to work wants to work with whiners. Nearly every other social malady is acceptable. Be arrogant, rude, or even borderline psychotic. Be a managed druggy. By if you are whiner, don't waste you time in engineering. No one cares.
    6. And one more thing. A Ti Silver Edition is not a real calculator. It is a toy given to kids who can't do math to keep them busy during math class. I know the 'plus' makes it seem like a real calculator, but it is not. It is most useful for passing notes. Get and HP.

  • by lancejjj (924211) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:36PM (#22847112) Homepage
    Hmmm, maybe this guy simply isn't cut out to be an engineer.

    I remember my engineering program in college. It was loaded with a bunch of student that often complained about the instructors, the program, and the lack of leniency. In every case I can recall, the whiners were the lousy students.

    The short of it is that not everyone who gets into a great engineering program is really cut out to be an engineer. [Also note that many who once failed to get into a great engineering program are great engineers now]

    The fact is that engineering requires a lot of hard work. Complaining about how other majors have it "so easy" is just ignoring the fact that you're a lousy student that gets a deservedly poor grade. If you aren't getting excellent grades in your courses, my wager is that you either (1) don't have what it takes, or (2) aren't studying enough, or (3) have too many other obligations to study enough.

    Yes, some instructors are lousy; some are fabulous. Most institutions let you pick your courses. Choose wisely. If there aren't enough good options, you picked the wrong institution - find a new one. And unless you're currently a top notch student, stop whining about your own failings.

    By the way, I don't hire whiners.

    Good luck.

  • it's been done (Score:3, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare@g m a i> on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:36PM (#22847114) Homepage Journal []

    Cameron was born in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada, the son of Shirley, an artist and nurse, and Phillip Cameron, an electrical engineer.[2] He grew up in Chippawa, Ontario and graduated from Stamford Collegiate in Niagara falls , and in 1971 his family moved to Brea, California. There he studied physics and English at California State University, Fullerton, but his passion for filmmaking would draw him to the film archive of UCLA at every opportunity. After dropping out of university, he spent time writing while working several jobs, including truck driving[3]. After seeing the film Star Wars, Cameron quit his job as a truck driver to enter the film industry.[4] During this time, he made a short twelve minute science fiction film with his friends entitled Xenogenesis.

    can i get an amen from those reading this comment who think that groundbreaking films like terminator, aliens, terminator ii, titantic, abyss, etc., would be totally different and totally worse if not made by a man with a solid physics/ engineering background?

    is terminator ii possible without someone with an awareness of shape memory alloys?
  • by Stranger4U (153613) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:37PM (#22847128)
    Depends on which "Tech" you're referring to. Students at every "Tech" seem to forget that there are others.
  • Re:NO IT DOES NOT (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:41PM (#22847188)
    As an engineering student that reads the internet I can attest that I (typically) can write posts that actually follow most rules of English. Lose vs loose, break vs brake, etc. I couldn't imagine what grade I'd get on a lab report if I turned in stuff with those mistakes. Then I come to find out that a majority of those posters (Fark, Slashdot, other forums I'm on) ARE collage[sic] educated, it just baffles me that some of these people made it out of middle school not knowing the difference.

    We learned to write well as a second nature, we then had to add actual content on top of that. Every elective class I took that required a paper I got a 'Excellent paper' and I didn't even "try". People in the class around me were nitpicking with "Can it be 2 pages double spaced, can I use 14 pt font, etc" to try and get theirs done. By time I had my thoughts on the paper I could easily have twice the 'length' requirements without any additional cheating. And my peers in these courses were people who might one day go on to TEACH this.
  • by garett_spencley (193892) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:43PM (#22847228) Journal
    That's something that most of my (intelligent and well educated) male friends would say in the company of other males to sound funny.

    I'm sure if we knew the guy personally it might be "no shock to anyone that he flunked out", but just reading that sentence didn't dumbfound me or cause me to assume that the guy is an idiot. I could picture just about any male saying that in the right context. I mean, what ... if we're geeks we're not allowed to think that women are attractive and want to see more of them around us ? At worst it's sexist if said in the wrong context. Certainly does not automatically denote lack of intelligence.
  • by Charcharodon (611187) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:43PM (#22847234)
    I graduated 15 years ago, and if there is one thing I have learned is that I wish engineering/math/science students were not so dammed arrogant!

    That is pretty funny, and accurate, but then again it was hard not to be at times.

    When I was studying ChemE I had a journalism student as a room mate. When he wasn't stoned (which wasn't often) he'd talk alot of shit about how superior they were, in their core subjects and in the grand scheme of things, of course when it came time for the assessment exams he'd eat alot of crow when the Engineering school would spank the Journalism school on all portions of the test.

    In the end it all doesn't really matter, just being smart has little to do with being good at something.

  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:44PM (#22847248) Journal
    True, but your reply is also arrogant. People can be talented in a variety of areas, and may choose what to study based upon which one they think will lead to a better career. At my college they had to restrict a certain number of plays per year to just drama students, otherwise none of them would be cast in any of the student plays. The other majors contained a fair number of dramatically talented people, who were the leads in their school plays/musicals, but decided there was a better chance at making a living in another discipline.

    Every discipline also has a fair number of students hat aren't talented in the discipline, but really really like it.
  • Re:NO IT DOES NOT (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:46PM (#22847286)

    Bullshit. I did graduate work in the humanities when I was younger, I'm doing graduate work in CS now, at the same institution (and the CS department there is stronger than the humanities departments). My GPA in the humanities classes was about 3.5. My GPA in CS is 4.0. Doing quality work in either field is just as hard.

    You have a serious case disciplinary provincialism there (as do many, many engineering and science students). Keep in mind that most of the humanities classes you took in college were designed for non-majors. You're judging student quality in those fields the way a colleague in the humanities departments would judge CS based upon the difficulty of an Introduction to General Computing Systems course (where any programming never goes past HelloWorld). To me, you sound exactly like someone in say an MBA program who complains that "making a web browser isn't hard! You just type in an address and show a page?"

  • Re:NO IT DOES NOT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bkr1_2k (237627) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:46PM (#22847288)
    No respectable engineering professor grades on a curve.

    That is the most ridiculous thing I've read on slashdot in a long time. There are good engineering professors at every respectable university grading on a curve. Proving people can fail accomplishes nothing, while teaching them something accomplishes the task; training them to double check their work, learn from their mistakes, and pay attention to what they're doing.

    No one remembers everything, and expecting the majority of the population (hate to say it but not all engineering students can be above average intelligence) to be above average is futile.
  • Re:Bologna. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by techpawn (969834) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:48PM (#22847310) Journal

    knew I had learned something important:
    Art, modern art anyways - is a load of rubbish.
    No, what you learned was that a lot of people who wander around who look at modern art are pretentious and know nothing about art and just want to impress their girlfriends who took them to the met by following and agreeing with the artsy looking people.
  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:48PM (#22847312) Homepage
    I studied both Physics and E.E., and IMO, Physics was harder.

    You know what they say, engineering is for people who weren't good enough at math to be physics majors. And physics is for people who weren't good enough at math to be mathematics majors.
  • For the record (Score:3, Insightful)

    by edalytical (671270) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:50PM (#22847362)

    For the record my girlfriend is an advertising major. Her classes require her to do the insanely difficult tasks of glueing gummy bears onto paper and cutting up magazines to make ransom notes. Her classes grade on curves and she's usually allowed to redo assignments for higher grades. She does everything the night before it's due.

    On the other hand I'm a CS major, my professors usually start the semester off with the statement "I don't believe in grading on a curve." That's often followed by "late work is not accepted." I usually have a non trivial project do every week. I have to start early or I wont have time to finish the projects. I have to try to balance my time between math, science and computer science classes. My girlfriend has told me an innumerable number of times that I work too much and my major is difficult, she's right. But I don't care because I love the work and I love my major.

  • by GreggBz (777373) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:55PM (#22847438) Homepage
    I came into college being pretty good at C++, VB, and having installed Linux a few times, but I didn't know a thing. Let me stand up for the typical CS degree.

    Computer org was a fantastic class. So was Physics I and II. So were my software engineering classes. And, I'd say the same for numerical methods.

    They all taught me something. Computer org inspired me to seek the root of a problem. It gave a view of how computers actually work, something I lacked before the class despite knowing how plow around an OS and assemble the latest PC. It taught me logic, and the difference between a megabit and a megabyte; skills that I've used in every tech job, weather it's development or Unix administration.

    Physics I and II taught me the scientific method. This was my most important lesson. That it takes a long time, and lots of hard work to really KNOW something. That if you can't repeat something with relative certainty, it's meaningless.. it's not the real problem. That in order to solve hard things, you need patience, a variety of knowledge to draw from, and resolve. It taught me to RTFM also. It was the first class where I learned the real value of reference material.

    Software engineering taught me to draw a damn flowchart and understand the problem and my planned solution before I start coding. 2nd most valuable lesson from college. So many self taught CS people, they stunningly still don't get this.

    Numerical methods taught me that across all languages, the tools are largely the same. I learned how to translate a math problem into procedural code. I've seen people that can't devise the code to draw a window in the middle of the screen. It's not something we went over in the FORTRAN, but I'm sure I know how to instantly solve it thanks to the style of thinking instilled in me by that class.

  • Re:NO IT DOES NOT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by liquidpele (663430) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:56PM (#22847478) Journal
    That's how I was with linear Algebra. It was all theory and I barely got a C. The I took Differential Equations, and was like "So THAT'S what all that shit was for". They really need to make courses show *why* you need to know the stuff, because it makes it easier to learn if it's not just all theory coming from the ether.
  • Re:Bologna. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Monday March 24, 2008 @01:59PM (#22847534)

    No, what you learned was that a lot of people who wander around who look at modern art are pretentious and know nothing about art and just want to impress their girlfriends who took them to the met by following and agreeing with the artsy looking people.

    I'm sure there's a kind of hipster peer-pressure thing going on. That's kind of my point.

    As for the event in question, here's how it went down.

    My girlfriend was by my side when I started my routine. We were alone at the time. Other people wandered in...maybe 5 or 6. They wanted to see what I was talking about. I did my bit on 3 or 4 paintings, thinking my girlfriend was beside me. What she did was take two steps back and watch.

    I turned around. There was a lady who was maybe in her 50's with white hair leading the pack. I made eye contact with her and was surprised. I thought I was alone with my SO. The lady smiled and nodded in an encouraging manner that suggested, "Please, do go on!" I apologized, explaining I thought I was alone and didn't wish to disturb their viewing. Wandered back to my SO who was doing her very very best to not laugh. We exited the room. Later on she told me about my miniature fan club and how impressed they were with my insight.

    Yeah, it's a small sample and I'm sure it doesn't speak for the whole crowd. But it did teach me a small something about modern art.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:05PM (#22847648)
    higher education is *not* vocational training
    For $100k it better teach me a trade! If I am going to take out a mortgage without a house to show for it. I better be damn employable by the end of it.

    I agree historically this was not the case. But in the 70s higher education because REQUIRED and you needed a college degree to get what a high school diploma got you in the 40s. Now you need a graduate degree to equal what a college degree used to be. And graduate degrees almost always come with grants/stipends/etc.

    For the excessively high prices of undergrad' degrees, you better have a trade when you are done.

  • by xRelisH (647464) on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:05PM (#22847662)
    It says a lot by saying a little. It's artistic without being artsy.
    It's amazing how much of a conversation you can have with just green, isn't it?
    You can see the effort but not the grace. Yellow can be so unforgiving.
    I think you're missing the fundamental point of modern art. Modern art is technically more accessible because there are no boundaries. Right - a modern painting can take considerably less time than a photo-realistic or impressionistic piece of art, but that's part of the beauty of it.

    Modern art doesn't mean the artist had to spend days or months on a painting, and that it could've been done with ease and joy, and not frustration. In essence, it's the freest form of expression and just exploring very basic aspects of vision (color, shapes, etc.).

    I think one just needs to open their mind a little, and with modern art, you tend to appreciate beauty of things you take for granted.
  • by russotto (537200) on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:08PM (#22847714) Journal

    I still don't understand why you're so convinced the average CS major could be making great art. The only argument anyone seems to be making for that claim is that James Cameron has an engineering degree (which isn't even true) and that therefore every Java-mangling halfwit could also make Titanic.

    The average CS major probably couldn't be making great art. But neither can the average film student. IMO, the average CS major could get through an undergraduate film curriculum a lot easier than the average film student could get through an undergraduate CS curriculum (and forget about EE).

    Disclaimer: I only took one film class in college. And yes, it was an easy A.
  • On Modern Art (Score:2, Insightful)

    by geoffrobinson (109879) on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:09PM (#22847734) Homepage
    Rule of Thumb: if you have to be convinced by group-think or educated into believing something is good art, it isn't.
  • by popmaker (570147) on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:13PM (#22847810)
    Yes, I know we are arrogant. Sometimes there is a reason for it though. I'm living with a girl who wrote a ten-page article on Plato's idea of "good". It's idea-history. It took her a week. By doing so she passed half of th semester. She was telling me that at a time I hadn't slept for twenty four-hours after the sheer terror of fininshing an exam in discrete mathamatics. The only reason I wasnðt jealous of her (or bitter) is that I was so damn proud of it. It was eleven pages of hard mathematics done in four days where I didn't sleep. I actually had six other ones I had to turn in, one for every week. The total amount of text I wrote was about forty pages. At the same time I was reading algebra 2 and had to take a verbal exam in that the same day I was handing in the other one. To finish the semester I went through the exact same thing with elementary number theory and topology. I don't know if you know the feeling of sitting somewhere for ten hours straight and just thinking about some problem. Then realise that it didn't do shit.

    I'm not bitter. I LIKE doing this. You have to like it not to go insane. I don't know about other subjects' comparison, but mathematics is harder - so infitelty much harder - that idea-history.

    But I really admire liberal arts peolle who actually ARE doing the equivalent quality of work I am doing. It just seems that there are some subjects, containing some people, that are able to get their eduacation for almost no amount of work. But of course that's an empty victory. People in Science departments wouldn't be arrogant if they really enjoyed their work. I'm not arrogant. People who don't know the sheer terror of discrete mathematics also don't know the fantastic thrill of discrete mathematics. It's their loss, not mine.

    I, by the way, also compose music in my spare time and I agree that inspiration can be a total bitch. It's just so unpredictable! :)

    And to conclude that little ramble, I'd like to leave a message for our engineering student: Save the drama for yo' mama!
  • Re:Bologna. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Minwee (522556) <> on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:22PM (#22847992) Homepage

    What I didn't realize was that other art people were looking over my shoulder and nodding at every single thing I was saying. I had the weird hair and the odd jacket. And nothing I was saying was making sense. Since it was all zooming over their heads, they erred on the side of caution and assumed I was a genius. And I had improved their day with my "insight", which was nothing more than half-drunken babbling.

    Your mind reading abilities are impressive.

    Did I ever tell you about the time that I went out to the Met and saw some guy doing his best Steve Martin impression in front of the modern art display? He was clearly babbling about nothing in particular but I was entertained by his display of street theatre. I smiled and nodded when he quoted a line from 'LA Story' and made no effort to move away when I saw that we were taking the same path through the museum. The funny thing is that I never did figure out whether he was trying to make some sort of wry criticism of artists who try to make a virtue out of inaccessibility or if he really was just a drunken lout who had no idea what he was looking at and wanted to be funny for his girlfriend.

    But I was reminded of something important:

    Just because you don't understand something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Lots of people have no idea how gravitation works but that doesn't keep them from sticking to the ground.

  • Re:So what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MrMarket (983874) on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:26PM (#22848048) Journal
    I agree. So what? No one hires a director, artist, or writer based on their GPA (I challenge you to find one director's undergrad GPA on IMDB or wikipedia). The quality of their portfolio of work determines their success or failure - not their GPA.
  • Re:Bologna. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oligonicella (659917) on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:27PM (#22848062)
    Have to agree with techpawn. You only learned something about those people, not modern art itself. There are a number of "schools" of MA; some are drek, some are quite deep and friggin' hard to accomplish.

    You could have done exactly the same thing with Renaissance art.
  • by JohnFluxx (413620) on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:29PM (#22848094)
    I speak to a retired professor every week. He said that one of his biggest makes was trying to be a good teacher. He put a lot of time and effort into teaching and as a result he didn't manage to publish many papers. After almost losing his job because of this (cutbacks target those with the least number of papers first), he learnt that students come last.
  • by Atzanteol (99067) on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:30PM (#22848104) Homepage
    If you like it, it's good art. If you don't like it, it's bad art.

    Anyone who tells you otherwise is an elitist asshole.

  • Re:Bologna. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by popmaker (570147) on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:31PM (#22848132)
    No it's not. The real artists aren't hanging around bars. These guys we're probably just like you: Pretending. The real artists are AT HOME doing something useful. But you did make a good point. There are a lot of people who like pretending. I see them all the time and GOOD GOD I would have hated your guts - no offense - if I had seen you at that bar.

    That is also the reason I don't use the word "artist" and that I use the word "art" sparingly. It just conjures up an image of those phoney people with army jackets and pins on them. I actually think the modern self-taught computer-geek has more to do with art than those people. There is probably less difference that you think in being a geek sitting in front of his computer hout after hour chasing after a buffer overflow, trying to get a tetris-piece to move or god-knows what and thet geek in the 16th century who spent hour after hour trying to get that smile to look just right. And there certainly is less difference between both the computer geek and the real artist than those phoney hanging-out-in-bars supposedly breathing in "culture" types.

    An arist is a person who creates art. Show me the results, not the clothes. I agree with you on about a thousand levels, but I don't agree that you should accuse "art" of BEING this phoney - even modern art.
  • My museum story (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:39PM (#22848268)
    About 2 years ago, I was in London and everybody told me that I simply *must* visit the Tate Modern ( to see the Kandinsky exhibit ( Being an American in London, the dollar wasn't worth anything, and so when I went to see this exhibit it was 10 pounds. A fair chunk of money for what was about 4 rooms of paintings. But hey, it was London, and of course everybody said you had to go to see the Kandinsky exhibit.

    Well, from a historic standpoint, Kandinsky is interesting. He "invented" abstract art. But he was nuts. Crazy. Bonkers. No two ways around it. He has what I'd charitably describe as a handful of interesting and challenging pieces. The rest is just a painting by a crazy person. And after you look at a wall of it, you're tired of it. You're tired of the guy. And you're mostly sorry that you paid all that money to look at the splatterings of a madman.

    Well, I finally looked around and said very loudly "This stuff is crap. And everybody pretending to like this stuff is only doing it because you're *supposed* to say everything this guy did was genius. It's just the ravings of a madman". Everyone turned around and gave me an evil eye.

    Except the guards. They all started clapping.

    I quickly high-tailed it out of there before I got pelted with wine and brie, but it's true.

    And yes, I'm a computer guy, but I'm also an artist (musical). But you don't have to be an artist to call B.S. on this sort of nonsense. And most art... modern or not, really *is* crap.
  • Re:Bologna. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2008 @02:59PM (#22848578)
    And what if the "other art people" were guests who knew nothing about the subject, like yourself? They may have felt they were learning something. Or, maybe you have learned that art involves a great deal of, dare I say, uncertainty. This is exactly why artists choose the mediums and conversations that they do.

    Art is not engineering, and its ideas are not fixed, which many engineers are uncomfortable with, but its embodies many wonderful and complex ideas that other tools are insufficient to express. It is certainly not rubbish.

    Is literature also rubbish? At one point Joyce was "modern". Please, call his work rubbish.

    I'm sorry but you're rather ignorant on the subject and should make a better effort to understand it before painting it with such a broad brush. Most people here resent technologically ignorant people commenting on IT. Please do not be the same with other subjects.
  • by droopycom (470921) on Monday March 24, 2008 @03:01PM (#22848604)
    Nor are the majority of Engineering students destined to make Great Engineers.
    Nor are the majority of Computer Science students destined to make Great Computer Scientist.

    The Greats are very few.

    I'm not one of them, neither are you.

  • by Naughty Bob (1004174) on Monday March 24, 2008 @03:09PM (#22848736)
    This debate is called nature vs. nurture, and has raged for centuries. Greater minds than ours are unable to figure out how either of them can usefully be quantified, or which is the more significant. The science just isn't there yet. >gross biological and anatomical features... I can guess which way you lean.
  • Re:NO IT DOES NOT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ChrisA90278 (905188) on Monday March 24, 2008 @03:30PM (#22848978)
    It does help to pick the "right " school. There is nothing to stop a prospective student from talking with teachers and students and even sitting in o a class or skiming over the required text books in the student bookstore.

    The real problem is that high school students are not realt qualitied or well enough informed to pick a school. I know I was not. I always thought that I wanted to go to UCLA. I don't know why I thought that but from the 8th grade on I did. Well I finally got there and reallt did not like it. Some very good insturctors and I did learn a lot but I didn't like the big campus and huge size of some of the classes. I transfered out to a small private school. Picking a school is hard.

    I was a double major. Enginerring and Pihilosophy. With enginerring, what makes it hard is that you have to be correct so for example your computer program either works or it does not. but with other subjects it is mostly opinion and as long as you have references and some reasoning you can write anything
  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eh2o (471262) on Monday March 24, 2008 @03:38PM (#22849078)
    A significant portion of education is taxpayer funded. Why should we spend money to support liberal arts programs with low standards? All degree programs should require approximately the same amount of effort. I'd rather have education be more affordable and more difficult.
  • by Xaedalus (1192463) <> on Monday March 24, 2008 @03:47PM (#22849164)
    ALL of the heads of state in the world today are, or can be considered Liberal Arts majors. MOST of the governments of the world are filled to the brim with liberal arts students (mostly specializing in language. Many CEO's have liberal arts degrees and NOT business degrees. So your statement that the Liberal Arts Major is a four-year stamp for dead-end jobs is not even remotely accurate. People who major in Liberal Arts run the world you live in, because most people who major in Engineering or other hard sciences would do an absolutely horrible job doing so. That's not where your skillsets or strengths lie. In order to run the world, you have to be able to account for other people's opinions, personalities, agendas, and desires. Most engineers/programmers/scientists I've met are very intolerant of opinions and beliefs other than their own (as often evidenced on Slashdot). They cannot deal with the political complexities required, nor would they be successful in a job that required them to do so. Furthermore, I'd be more inclined to believe that if put into power, engineers and other hard scientists would probably institute forms of fascism into the government, because they would be more interested in fixing the problem than in actually running the system. And there's a vast difference between the two goals when you're considering political systems.
  • by realisticradical (969181) on Monday March 24, 2008 @03:52PM (#22849222) Homepage

    by glueball (232492) Alter Relationship on Monday March 24, @01:04PM

    2.) Untraining the bad habits. I block instant messaging for a reason.

    Do you block Slashdot too?

  • by dbc (135354) on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:10PM (#22849400)
    As an engineering manager, I've hired a lot (and fired a few) engineers and tech writers.

    I don't give a rat's behind what your grades are. I care if you can think. Yes, I've rejected 4.0 "homework machines" and hired lesser GPA candidates who showed me that they could problem-solve, not just answer homework. And major doesn't matter much either, if you can show you can do the work. One of the best programmers I know has degrees in linguistics, not engineering.

    So, here's some advice to all you still in school: 1) Don't confuse getting good grades with getting a good education. 2) Hiring managers are looking for people that solve problems, not cause problems.
  • by shaka999 (335100) on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:47PM (#22849840)
    Ahhh, someone who failed statistics I take it?

    I'm sure you've heard that "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes...". Well with 1 bazillion liberal arts major's around there are sure to be a few good ones. The vast majority of LA students do not get to work in the field they studied. There are so many LA grads that half the people flipping burgers have one.

    So, can you get a good job with Liberal Arts? Of course. Many have and will, but your odds aren't good.
  • by zazenation (1060442) on Monday March 24, 2008 @04:52PM (#22849888)
    According to your definition, the world is run by the "Peoples Skills" set, which, in fact, it is. This is evidenced (expecially in politics) by the tepid, vacillating, "bend with the breeze" politicians. Maybe we need leaders who have a set of balls and believe in their convictions rather than "Playing to the poll numbers". I think engineers would make great politicians. So they're a tad stubborn in their convictions, but that is what's lacking with crowd pleaser sycophants in office today.
  • by innerweb (721995) on Monday March 24, 2008 @05:48PM (#22850472)

    Bush believes in his convictions. To the point that he admitted God told him to do what he did. I kind of like the willing to change their mind when presented with evidence to the contrary scientific type. Forget the bullheaded charging I am going to get this done my way type.

    What might be truly refreshing though is to have a politician who simply looks at the American People and the future of the American People and does what is right by those terms. I would love to learn how it feels to have a President like that.


  • by fishbowl (7759) on Monday March 24, 2008 @07:12PM (#22851162)
    >A Ti Silver Edition is not a real calculator.

    Mine's pretty good, but I actually prefer and use the previous generation TI-89.
    If you obsess on things like having an antique calculator, you might have attention
    issues that are incompatible with engineering school.

    I love my RPN, stack based calculators - I have quite a collection. I also recognize
    the fairly amazing power of my TI-89, considering its battery usage and its cost.

  • Re:So what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hjf (703092) on Monday March 24, 2008 @07:22PM (#22851238) Homepage
    Engineers are the ones who make the machines you use at work. But I guess you're so good you could roll out something on VHDL and implement it on a FPGA and it will crunch your numbers faster than a 8-core Xeon. No wait -- you still use big clusters of computers made by engineers! And comparing Perl to biochemical engineering, I can see you have no idea.
  • by electrictroy (912290) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @08:23AM (#22855594)
    Oh well. I'll just repeat it: "If you think engineering textbooks are boring (black and white and contain long equations) then you should take heart, because the Engineering Job is going to be just as boring."

    That was a genuine comment from a genuine engineer... not offensive enough to deserve deleting? If anything, my time at Penn State was MORE exciting than my actual 10-year career as an electrical engineer. Every day I come to the same tiny cubicle and stare at the same flickering CRT moving around the same circuits I've seen a thousand times. At least at Penn State I got to flirt with biology coeds (points to wife), but that's not the case on the job. I'm not even sure we have any women here. ;-) Oh well; that's life. The reason I stay on the job is because they pay me $55 an hour, else I'd go do something more fun. I theorize that the more boring the job, the more they pay, because that's the only way for them to fill the seat.

    Anyway, back on topic:

    If you think college is boring, maybe you ought to go on an Internship and discover the boredom of an actual engineering job.

    You may find yourself changing careers.

  • by JoeDuncan (874519) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @07:54PM (#22864518)

    I've seen enough people with talent to know that it is more than just learned skill.
    Hey. Wow. Anecdotal evidence is _really_ good science. Your insight into the _entire_ backgrounds and experiences of _everyone_ you meet is simply astounding! You've convinced me.

    I notice you completely ignored my challenge to prove your earlier claims. I'm still waiting for the logical argument demonstrating the equivalence of "anyone can be" and "everyone is". However, I have the impression I will be waiting for quite a while...

    I think it's funny that you to claim that the debate over nature vs. nurture has already been decided in your favor,
    Please, show me where I made this claim. You will find that equally hard as well, because this is just another straw man argument of yours. I never once claimed that. As I said in other posts in this thread, no one seriously considers the "nature vs. nurture" debate an actual debate any more. It has been adequately demonstrated that who we are as a whole is determined by a mixture of the two, and that they are not mutually exclusive. We are not forced to pick one or the other, the answer is both. It's a false dichotomy.

    Many reputable studies support the concept of fluid intelligence: "on-the-spot reasoning ability, a skill not basically dependent on our experience." (Belsky, 1990, p. 125)
    Hey, great, I agree with you completely on this. But there's nothing in the concept of fluid intelligence itself that contradicts anything I have said. I never denied the existence of fluid intelligence or that people have differences in that respect. However, those differences account for very little of the variability on learned task/skill performance (e.g. music, engineering...) - so much so that the colloquial notion of "natural ability" is simply false. The majority of said variability is accounted for by experience/practice. This has been very well documented.

    I suppose it won't hurt you to believe this way
    It's not a matter of belief my friend. I am merely reporting to you the facts that are supported by the weight of evidence and scientific consensus. It is your choice whether or not you wish to remain ignorant of this. I suggest you familiarize yourself with the relevant literature before making such certain proclamations on a subject with which you are so woefully ill-informed. The reference I have already given you should serve as a good starting point. It will most likely address any further questions you may have, I know it addresses the issue of "fluid intelligence" you have already brought up much better than I can here.

    It's been fun! Cheers!

If a 6600 used paper tape instead of core memory, it would use up tape at about 30 miles/second. -- Grishman, Assembly Language Programming