Letters 5/10/2012

May 10, 2012
The establishment, to use an old 60s term, is always harping on the college grads, complaining they aren’t as educated or qualified as they themselves were at that age

Kids and baseball: They never change

The establishment, to use an old 60s term, is always harping on the college grads, complaining they aren’t as educated or qualified as they themselves were at that age. But one reader points out that the older generation never seems to take responsibility for educating and training those college grads. In another vein, readers agreed with Ken Korane’s satiric plea for Congress to mandate strike-zone-detection technology for major-league baseball.

Them kids I graduated from college 30 years ago, and about every two years after that, I read at least one article about college graduates being unprepared for the workforce (“Old Codgers Always Gripe About ‘the Kids,’” March 8). The articles are usually written by academics from places like the Social Science Research Council. But they just want to extract more education funding from the government. If the premise of the articles is true, however, then it is an embarrassment to academia to advertise such poor student preparedness, considering the astronomical salaries and benefits teachers and professors receive.

The argument that college graduates are not prepared for the workforce also comes from managers in all industries. When asked about this issue, one discovers that managers expect new hires to jump in and know all the systems and procedures of their company. This is too much to expect from any new hire, especially from recent college graduates. I find that some engineering managers have even higher expectation from new college graduates. They expect them to know and have experience in all advanced manufacturing processes, in addition to being able to jump in and create new designs.

As you pointed out, the idea that new college grads are not being properly educated to join the workforce will be around for a long time, along with other myths espoused by academia such as the one that says engineers lose half their knowledge every five years after graduating from college. Twelve of the engineering textbooks that I used in my studies 30 years ago are still in print today. What new laws of physics are new engineers learning, making the old engineers obsolete? Please do not publish such absurd ideas without real proof.

G. Harris

Getting more U. S. engineering jobs As a long-time reader of your magazine, I can remember many variations on one topic being debated repeatedly in your editorials and letters: the deterioration of the labor market in the U.“S. for engineers.

Anyway you look at the situation, it becomes clear that the root cause of the problem is the loss of manufacturing in the U.“S. causing the reduction in demand for materials and services.

This trend has been going on for more than two decades, and it is time we admit that globalization is not working for us and will never work in our favor. Most of the calls to level the playing field with tax cuts and incentives are just more smoke and mirrors sponsored by corporations already making billions of dollars despite the deterioration of the take-home pay and standard of living of American engineers and workers in general.

There is no silver bullet or a simple solution to decades of failed industrial policies, but a fair-trade policy that protects American jobs is required to stop, or at least slow, the further deterioration of our labor market.

Name withheld by request

Quality not quantity I recall having a related discussion with engineering educators about 10 years ago (“Deconstructing Engineering Education,” Leland Teschler’s Blog, Feb. 22). A few years before that, around 1997, many universities essentially junked a full year of engineering curriculum to squeeze in a full year of “design courses.” I asked educators how they managed to still teach the essentials and get it all done in four years of coursework. They said they got rid of overlap by combining parts of classes to eliminate several separate classes. It seems they didn’t see the value in courses that repeated some materials, but in a different approach.

Many critics of current engineering education seem to have a single complaint: “Engineering courses are too hard!” But then, they are supposed to be hard. That’s what produces great engineers.

Engineers have an awesome responsibility to society; repetition and “hard” are absolutely necessary to produce those great engineers that we need. “More engineers” is not a worthwhile goal, while “the best engineers in the world” is the only goal worth pursuing.

Scott Prost-Domasky

One problem with keeping students in engineering is that they do not relate what they are learning in early courses to practical engineering. What is needed is more hands-on experience early in the curriculum to show them the need for what they are learning.

Lawrence Mann

Strike zone technology and a new pi In reference to your commentary (Mandating Innovation, Feb. 9): I have been advocating the use of modern technology to determine and police the strike zone in major-league baseball. Umps have needed it for many years now. I want to explode when I hear the argument that doing so would remove the “human element” from the game. Only when the players are robots will such a statement be true. Removing human error from calling balls and strikes is long overdue.

Frank C. Maffei

I recall a small hometown game year s ago when the umpire called a strike on my father when the ball bounced off the front edge of the plate. The ump’s argument was that as the ball went by the batter, it was in the strike zone. My father was deep in the batter’s box. As it turned out, the ump had a substantial bet on the game.

Maybe umpi re s could be rigged with cameras so we could all see exactly what they see. Sort of an instant replay. And the ump could review the pitch before making the call.

All in all, I don’t support adding high tech to baseball. Over the course of nine innings, it usually all balances out.

Carl Junior

When I was at Purdue, there was a story making the rounds that the Indiana legislature discussed passing a law that would mandate that pi equal three, since the real value was too hard to remember.


I’ve heard rumors the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandate will include an antigravity provision that vehicle manufacturers must meet by 2050.

Ellen Hellman

Correction In the March 22 Looking Back item, “Rough-water power boats,” the sentence “Speed is 20 knots with an 180-hp outboard,” should have read, “Speed is 20 knots with an 18-hp outboard. — Editor

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