Professors blame jihadi bombings on…college engineering programs: All that “rigid thinking”
From my latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:
Brussels airport: All the fault of that Aeronautical Engineering 101 class?
“Recently two social scientists, Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog, scrutinized the numbers and concluded that, yes, the proportion of terrorists who are engineers far outpaces expectations. Why is that? The researchers, who have pursued this question for the past several years, offer answers in a new book, Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection Between Violent Extremism and Education (Princeton University Press). In the process, they join two current debates: about the seeds of terrorism and about the blind spots that can afflict engineering education.
“The chief reason so many violent extremists are engineers, the authors think, is that these programs appeal to a certain kind of mind. ‘It seems they’re selected rather than being shaped,’ Hertog says. A college education can’t completely reframe how people think, he notes. ‘What you can do is influence the social environment that allows some problematic tendencies to emerge.’…
“Engineering curricula in the United States may unintentionally close minds, too, according to a 2014 study by Erin A. Cech, an assistant professor of sociology at Rice University. Cech, who earned undergraduate degrees in electrical engineering and sociology, analyzed survey responses by 326 students in four engineering programs. Between their freshman year and graduation, their self-reported answers showed drops in measures of public-mindedness, including a commitment to professional and ethical responsibilities and a social consciousness.
“The discipline’s culture and curricula emphasize ‘an ideology of depoliticization,’ she argues, which treats nontechnical factors as irrelevant to the work of ‘real’ engineering. The notion of meritocracy also runs through the discipline, she writes, but this ideal tends to accept existing social structures and relationships as inherently fair. ‘Engineering education,’ Cech writes, ‘fosters a culture of disengagement that defines public welfare concerns as tangential to what it means to practice engineering.'”
Posted by Charlotte Allen