0250 – Education: Breadth vs Depth

The frustration inspiration behind this post comes from this Facebook comment that I encountered: “That’s a very balanced education. You’ve got the whole range from math to computer science.”.

Note: Range includes, Computer Science, Engineering and Math. Some range indeed.

As a math-science geek out of high school, I used to think with that linear but narrow mindset based on the only-engineering-matters mentality. That was rather short-lived. Somehow, it didn’t seem right. There seems to be so much more in the world. There seems to be so many things that are fascinating, things that I will never get to learn about in engineering. It struck me how intensely we engineers only focus on the depth of our education, but not really the breadth. Degree requirements seem extremely rigid and there is little wiggle room to take courses ‘for fun’. Why is it this way? Is it time for change?

As someone whose interest has constantly been piqued by my daily interactions, I am frustrated at how our education system is currently set up. I can say for certain that my comprehension and grasp of this world have been enhanced by my pursuits outside engineering.

One of the most cited unique feature of Michigan is its multifarious strengths in many academic fields. Countless programs are ranked in the top 10, and even more so in the top 20. Surely, we can do a better job of utilizing this unique opportunity for interdisciplinary education and collaboration that Michigan offers. Many have stressed that the key for innovation and change is the cross-functional thinking and teamwork.

However, the blame’s not entirely on the system. We, as students, sometimes don’t do a good enough job of seeking a holistic education. Humanities and social science requirements seem to be scoffed at. English requirement seems like a pain. Race and ethnicity requirement is a joke. For most engineers, any ‘range’ they may have involves broadening into a new math/science class. Few of us take a philosophy or an anthropology class by choice.

I think it’s time to break out of that shallow focus on just engineering. We alone are not going to change the world. Engineering alone will not suffice as education. I think it’s time to explore life. I have no doubt that the current depth of education in each major is more than enough to allow graduates to perform well later on. In fact, most engineering alums often report that it’s not the contents of each class that’s the most important, but rather the skills we gain from them. So I think there’s so much more to gain from a well-rounded education. The breadth will complement the depth. I think it’s time to really acknowledge that we need reform.

0249 – Well-informed futility?

I learned a new phrase yesterday: well-informed futility. It’s good to be able to put words onto a concept that’s long haunted our world.

“In the absence of federal policies that are protective of child development and the ecology of the planet on which our children’s lives depend, we serve as our own regulatory agencies and departments of interior…. Thoughtful but overwhelmed parents correctly perceive a disconnect between the enormity of the problem and the ability of individual acts of vigilance and self-sacrifice to fix it. Environmental awareness without corresponding political changes leads to paralyzing despair….We feel helpless in our knowledge, and we’re not sure we want any more knowledge. You could call this well-informed futility syndrome. And soon enough, we are retreating into silent resignation rather than standing up for abolition now.” (from Raising Elijah)

This quote resonated well within me. I believe most of us are relatively well-informed of the grim situation that we face. At times, it seems so overwhelming and hopeless that we don’t know what to do. We then indeed retreat into silent resignation.

I’m writing this to tell you that there is hope. There is the potential to rectify our past wrongs. There is a future for us and for our children.

You wonder if your individual efforts matter. And I say remember ‘The Value of One, the Power of All’. Recycling one soup can, as opposed to tossing it to the landfill, saves enough energy to power a laptop for almost two hours. Recycling a four-feet stack of newspaper can save one whole tree. Every single action that we take matters.

I don’t wanna make this another one of those long preaches on why you should care about the environment, so here’s where I want to end:

I have one challenge for you: We are strong. We are strong enough to not silently sliding into futility. We are strong enough to  work together. Forget the statistics. Forget the harsh words. Forget the critics. Forget the nags. Remember one thing: remember that you matter. We all matter. Let’s start caring, because there is hope.

0248 – Beneath the surface

Today, I want to write about pain.

I always wonder why everyone looks so happy. I wonder why everyone seems to be going out and having fun on the weekends. I wonder why people can laugh/smile/eat/chat without the worry on their faces.

I’m jealous. I’m jealous because I want to be happy. I’m jealous because I want to be well. I’m jealous because I want to be able to do things I want to without having the heavy existentialist thoughts wearing me down. But. It is a part of me. It is a part of me that plays larger than my life itself. However, sometimes, I have my rough moments where I wished I am not who I am. Sometimes I wished I don’t think as much. Sometimes I wish I’m just an ordinary college kid who just have fun.

And that is where I’m wrong.

Appearance is deceiving. Nobody knows I’m sometimes an extremely volatile and unhappy kid. Nobody knows because I don’t tell anybody. It was pointed out to me that many people may not be as happy as they look. This got me thinking a lot about why we hide our pain. In life, I hide a lot of things: pain, suffering, thoughts, the past, embarrassing stories. They are things I sometimes I don’t wanna talk about, things I sometimes don’t want others to know, things I want to bury beneath the surface forever.

So this blog post is dedicated to people who have pain buried beneath the surface. I’m sorry if I’ve stirred it. I’m grateful that you have shared. And I want to tell you that you’re strong. I want to tell you that having overcome this hurdle has made you a strong person. And I salute you for that.

I have pain buried underneath the surface. And I’m not gonna give up. I ain’t stopping til I find my place in this world.