Study Criticizes Engineering Programs For Focusing On Math and Science Rather Than Political Concerns

One_of_Diamonds_Mathematical_instruments_1702We recently discussed how University of Illinois math professor Rochelle Gutierrez triggered a national controversy over her work “Building Support for Scholarly Practices in Mathematics Methods” in which she criticized math classes as a “tool of whiteness.”  Then we discussed CUNY Professor Laurie Rubel’s publishing of a peer-reviewed article in the  Journal of Mathematics Education arguing that the concepts of meritocracy and “color-blindness” are ideological precepts that work against minorities.  Now four professors denouncing the “hegemony of meritocratic ideology” and the “masculine culture” in engineering courses as hostile to women. University of California (Irvine) Professor Carroll Serron’s March 1 study insists that merit-based advancement in engineering is harming women and fails to consider political factors in recognizing engineers.  The professors criticize the focus on “empirical science, technical thinking, merit, and individualism” as the cause for the isolation of female engineers.

The authors object to engineering as being too focus on the math and science and not enough on political concerns:  “In its commitment to empirical science, technical thinking, merit, and individualism, engineering culture allocates what it sees as political issues…to the realm of the social and subjective.”

Of course, most of us view the objectivity and merit-based selection as the strength (if not the defining quality) of engineering. Indeed, like math, it is a field where results matter rather than gender or race — offering a merit-based system to minority academics. Yet, these professors object to the “valorization of ‘technical’ prowess at the expense of ‘socially focused’ work processes, depoliticizes the gendered structure of the profession.”

They also criticize female engineers for focusing on advancing through their merits instead of demanding the political consideration be given greater weight: “Rather than telling what [some researchers] describe as a subversive story…these women engineers are often reproductive agents of the ideology of meritocracy, helping perpetuate existing relations of power and inequality.”

I have obviously been critical of these articles as an abandonment of the core commitment of academia to objective and merit-based advancement. These academics however go further to denounce meritocracy itself.  The authors are , and

Edith Clarke became the first female electrical engineer and the first female professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin through the merit of her work — work that could not be ignored as objectively superior to many men.  The same is true about Lillian Evelyn Moller Gilbreth who became one of the first working female engineers holding a Ph.D. and became a brilliant industrial/organizational psychologist.  The did not achieve their extraordinary legacies by seeking to elevate political over scientific criteria.  Studies like this one do not do justice to their contributions and the qualifications of many such female engineers.

You can read “I’m not a Feminist, but…”: Hegemony of a Meritocratic Ideology and the Limits of Critique Among Women in Engineering” in the journal Work and Occupations.

81 thoughts on “Study Criticizes Engineering Programs For Focusing On Math and Science Rather Than Political Concerns”

  1. The battle to wrestle back universities by naive idealists and SJWs is underway. The media will not cover it or acknowledge it until it’s a done deal.

    1. Do you think they are going to win? The entire power structure is extremist.

      1. The university was a place of liberal control in the late ’60s and ’70s. A rebalancing took place in the ’80s and ’90s. In 2018, progressives are losing in the marketplace of ideas. Their ideas are defensive, ad hominem, accusatory, and unproductive. That’s why I say the shift is already occurring. Tenure makes for slow change, but change will come.

        1. Actually, social survey research on arts and sciences faculty demonstrates an escalating imbalance in worldviews thereupon. Such research has been ongoing for four decades. Sociology, social psychology, anthropology, and American history are among the disciplines where the worldview of half the general public has no representation at most institutions and where a large minority of practitioners are SJW sectaries. Corrupted vocational faculties include the teachers’ colleges, social work programs, and library administration.

  2. The professors who wrote this were playing to the SJW audience. Dumbing down the herd. To be sure there are fewer female engineers than male – largely because the field does not interest them – not because they are intimated by ““empirical science, technical thinking, merit, and individualism.” This is an insult to women! My friends who majored in IE, EE and ME enjoyed competing with their male classmates – indeed the rivalry turned into lifelong friendships for many. The shared sense of accomplishment within a cohort regardless of gender. I am so sick of these “academics” watering down the standards and creating problems that don’t exist so they can get published. A pox on them all!

    1. “The attrition rate for engineering students in unparalleled. A gulp-worthy 60% of freshmen engineering students eventually drop-out or change majors. Over 40% don’t even make it through year one. The primary reason why students drop out of engineering programs is a lack of preparedness for the high level of rigor.” (

      I can guarantee that the 60% of freshmen engineering students who drop-out/change majors are not all female. That means a lot of White, Asian and other ethnic groups and genders fail to get engineering degrees. Should we have an affirmative action program for them?

      1. EG – yes! A special carve out for those who can’t pass physics, thermodynamics, computer programming, etc. Actually there is a program available to help those who are unprepared – it’s called tutoring generally found at Student Services. But it requires effort….

  3. CV – you need to get out of Alabama more. Actually, come to think of it the one woman I know from AL is an architect. Maybe she had to leave the state to become a highly regarded professional in her field.

  4. Let’s bring the tumult of politics into engineering. Galloping Gertie agrees

  5. The authors of this so called study must think women are truly incapable of achievement.

    A better solution would be to sack useless academics such as these and replace them with additional teaching slots for STEM programs. Perhaps it might be worthwhile in closing The Evergreen State College and replacing it with a WSU/UW extension campus that actually prepares students for success and not just protesting and drinking tea out of mason jars.

    1. Higher education in general is overbuilt and the arts and sciences and fine and performing arts consume too much manpower. A 30% cut in enrollments, staffing, and physical plant would be in order, along with an 80% cut in the manpower devoted to arts and sciences and performing and studio arts. Total enrollment in Washington state’s public institutions should not exceed about 115,000.

  6. I bet there isn’t a progressive that can recognize the fallacy of this.
    a^2 = a.b
    subtract b^2 from both sides we get
    a^2 – b^2 = a.b – b^2
    factor the equation
    (a+b) (a-b) = b (a-b)
    divide both sides by (a-b)
    you are left with
    a+b = b
    substitute a with b
    b+b = b
    2b = b
    2 = 1

    Maybe this is why they think male = female.

  7. Surely that study was written in jest. I hope.

    The thesis of the article answers the biggest problem in the world: Everything is not up to a vote or a decision based upon feelings. Doing so is the equivalent of saying that 2+2=3.

    However, that would be exactly the result that I would expect from those that oppose the value of mathematics.

  8. The erosion of respect for math, science and reason in general puts us all at risk.

    1. It is all part of the progressives agenda. Realizing that they contribute nothing to society, they must attack those pillars that do. Hell, they want us to believe something as concrete as male and female is not true.

  9. Here’s hoping Professor Serron moves into one of those cliff side homes overlooking the blue Pacific and constructed by one of those non-merit based engineers.

  10. TIN – I put economics in the “soft sciences” with sociology, psychology, etc.

    However, regarding this paper, this type of thinking is why the bridge failed in Florida. Wishful thinking does not work in engineering.

    1. Insanity but what evidence do you have that this type of think caused the collapse of the bridge in Florida?

      1. Justice Holmes – the same evidence they used in writing the paper.

  11. One of my engineering professors, a professor of color, would give only A’s and REDO/Fs on assignments. “A” if you were 100% correct. No partial credit. REDO/F otherwise.


    1. Never quite thought of that. Fortunately, my professors were a little more forgiving, but you raise an excellent point. I was in uni in the 70s long before we had SJWs out there crusading for us to learn more about politics than math and science — thank God.

  12. Whew, the ignorance is astounding. These Universities disgrace themselves as places of higher learning via keeping these idiots employed there. I am going to reblog this article for you Sir.

  13. Math is adding, subtracting, mulitplying, dividing. Science is speculating about the size of a moon or the reason tails wag.

  14. Those there ain’t the reason. Some years ago Washington State University recognized that women didn’t study engineering and went about eliminating the problems. Now every engineering major has a population of women and industry is happy to be able to hire the graduates.

    1. About 14% of all baccalaureate degrees in engineering are awarded to women. A smaller share of working engineers are female because they’re more likely to abandon the profession. About 25% of all degrees in computer science and IT are awarded to women. The share of such degrees awarded women peaked at 37% in 1984 and has declined since. The share of computer professionals who are female approximates the share of current graduating classes.

      There isn’t a ‘problem’ here. There is merely variation in what people want to do with their sorry-assed lives.

  15. Pet peeve about the expression in the title, “math and science.”

    FACT: Math is a branch of science, just like physics, chemistry, biology, etc. — so saying “math AND science” is like saying “tuna and fish.”

    I don’t know WHO popularized the expression, “math and science,” but he/she was a total gomer.

    1. No. Traditionally these are separate subjects and for good reason. Maths is based on proof; science is based on experiment and observations.

      1. Math is, and always has been, a branch of science. You’re just spewing rhetoric.

          1. I agree. I was always taught that math was the basis of all other sciences. Physics uses math, not math uses physics.

            1. “mathematics: the science of numbers …” Merriam- Webster online

              “mathematics — The abstract science of number, quantity, and space …” Oxford online

              “Mathematics, the science of structure, order, and relation that has evolved from elemental practices of counting, measuring, and describing the shapes of objects. …” Britannica online

              1. And your point? Again, you use math for the other sciences, not the other was around.

          2. Fact, you flaming moron. Math is a branch of science, and it has been since Pythagoras invented it.
            Ergo, a phrase such as “math and science” is ridiculous as a matter of common English.

            1. William Bayer – the Egyptians invented it before the Greeks and the Sumerians before the Egyptians. How do you think those pyramids and ziggurats got built. 😉 The Greeks just got credit for it.

                1. FFS – that is certainly one of the theories. 😉 However, there is a village of workers they are excavating in front of the pyramids that shows that the aliens at least had help.

              1. Paul,

                I like to think of it being discovered more than invented. 1+1=2 has always been there, we just needed to find it.

                1. Jim22 – I was thinking more of Pythagoras, however, I would agree with you. Pythagoras just cribbed it from the Egyptians, who were willing to share, but never wrote stuff down. 😉

    2. That’s neither a ‘FACT’ nor a fact. The natural sciences are composed of theoretical formulation and empirical investigation. Mathematics is pure intellection, philosophy conducted with symbolic notation.

      1. Where does Turley dig up morons like you people. It’s a simple FACT — math is a branch of science.

        “science — noun


        a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws:
        the mathematical sciences.

        And if you want to know precisely when mathematics began, here’s your answer:

        1. You’re a fine example of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

          Back to the kid’s table, wanker.

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