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.


One thought on “0250 – Education: Breadth vs Depth

  1. DIGITAL S. May 15, 2011 / 8:43 pm

    will soon be Required Reading for all incoming TS

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