John Derbyshire writes: In this weekend's Radio Derb I ruminated (at 15m51s here ) on David Goldman's April 4th column at Asia Times: US-China decoupling: a reality check. David's column is about decoupling our manufacturing industry from China.
David is not optimistic. We just don't have enough engineers, he says: China graduates far more engineers than we do.
That brought an interesting email from an engineer, which I reproduce here, slightly edited, with his permission.
As a 30+ year engineering veteran of the American manufacturing sector, I can tell you that we not only have a numbers problem with engineering talent, we also have a quality problem. The cause is, like most of the decay we see in the West, political correctness and cultural Marxism.
Several years ago I started noticing increased chatter about the lack of women and minorities in STEM fields. Missionary delegations were sent to high schools to convey the message to black and female students that unless they went to college and obtained a science-based degree they were selling out to the man.
Engineering classrooms began to fill up with these students who either didn't have the intellectual acumen or temperament (or both) for engineering. When it started to become obvious that they couldn't hack it, the standards were lowered because, as we know, vibrant diversity is more important than technological advancement. This dumbing down of the curriculum is a falling tide that lowers all ships. Even "traditional" young white and Asian male engineering students suffered from a less demanding course of study.
The net result is that now we're graduating an alarming number of young "engineers" who don't have a basic comprehension of engineering fundamentals.
A few years ago I was asked to help out a recently hired young engineeress on a small project she'd been assigned. The basic problem was to calculate the thermal expansion of a machine component in order to determine a critical installation dimension. As I talked through the problem with her it became clear to me that she didn't understand that metals expanded when heated; much less was she able to calculate how much an object of a given material and original length expanded when its temperature was increased by a specified amount (one of the most fundamental calculations you can imagine in mechanical engineering.)
It's some consolation, I guess, to know that the engineers we are training for China aren't being trained very well. Still, if we are going to dumb down our engineering education in the name of Diversity, perhaps we should follow China's example and ship really keen engineering students abroad to study, but to countries not blighted with crazy social ideologies: Japan? Hungary? Korea?
The problem may be, of course, that those un-blighted countries probably don't hand out student visas like Halloween candy.