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Smart, John W. (ed.) / The Wisconsin engineer
Vol. 27, No. 3 (December 1922)

French, N. E.
The engineer; trained or educated,   pp. [VII]-40

Page 40

tory, specialists when receiving salaries as professional
  That is the opinion of one who is probably the fore-
most engineer of this generation,-a man, confessedly,
having but few interests other than those within his
profession, yet a man who will never become crusta-
ceous, whose liberal, even classical, education has not
only aided himn to material success, but has assured for
him those "permainet pleasures of the mind."
  I do not mean to imply that the engineer should rush
about absorbing culture in large chunks to the detri-
menit of h's technical training, or that he should pre-
pare for all the fatuous questionnaires of mentally aber-
rant geniuises. The technical equipment is, without ques-
tion, thle nost imlportant aspect of his training. The
engineer mutist be right. A lawyer's mistakes are hidden
in prisons and penietentiaries; the physician or surgeon
soon buries his; but the engineer is not so fortunate,-
a misl)laced (lecimal point may cost him his job, his
reputation, his professional career.
  Certainly, no one in his sound mind would suggest
substitution of "The Lays of Ancient Rome" for
"Strength of Materials", or advocate that a course in
Elizabethan Dranma should supplant "Calc 55".   The
good workman must have not only good tools, but tools
adapted to his trade.
  John Butler Johnson, former dean of this College of
Engineering, divided all education-which he charac-
terized as "a means of gradual emancipation from the
thraldom of incom-ipetence"-into two general classes:
Education for competency to serve, and education for
competency to appreciate and enjoy.
  "By competency to serve," he said, "is meant
ability to perform one's due proportion of the world's
work which brings to society a common benefit, and
which makes of this world a continually better home
for the race, and which tends to fit the race for that
immortal life in which it puts its trust".
  "By coml)etency to appreciate and enjoy, is meant
that ability to understand, to appropriate, and to assim-
ilate those great personal achievements of the past and
present in the fields of the true, the beautiful, and the
good, which brings into our lives a kind of peace, and
joy, and gratitude which can be found in no other
  It is evident, I believe, that all kinds of elementary
education are subservient to both ends, but it is the
tendency in so-called higher education to choose be-
tween them   rather than to include them  both.  The
more restricted higher education which leads to a life
of service is known as a professional education, and
those professions in which scholarly accomplishments
are employed are called learned.   Engineering, then,
under such a classification, must certainly be a learned
profession, but in the past there has been a marked dis-
tinction between its learning and that of the other pro-
fessional vocations; its learning has been, and still is,
concerned more w ith the world of dead matter and
force, the inanimate; it has been divorced from life in
general, and until recent years has had little in common
with the world outside.
  The engineer's function was formerly considered to
be the planning and carrying to completion of those
things which others may have concluded to be necessary
or expedient. Those, in a position to dictate what was
to be done, seemed to have held it the engineer's duty
to do what he was told, when he was told, and because he
was told. The feasibility or timeliness of a certain pro-
ject, its economic aspect, the saneness or prudence of the
financial plan, questions of franchise or concession (if
such were involved)-these matters were settled by at-
torneys, promoters, capitalists, or public authorities, and
the engineer was not expected, nor was he inclined, to
assume responsibility for them.
  Such conditions do not exist now, except perhaps in
some branches of public service. No concern engaged,
to-day, in floating bond issues for private enterprise will
undertake to handle such securities without a report
from competent engineers as to the soundness of the
project from both engineering and economic points of
view. In other words, the nature of engineering prac-
tice has so broadened that it is essentially a super-
structure built not alone upon a foundation of math-
ematics and science, but upon a foundation of political
economy as well. The increasing scope of the pro-
fession is sufficient evidence to justify the inclusion of
the liberal element in engineering education on a purely
utilitarian consideration.
  Entirely apart from any inner satisfaction a study of
these liberalizing elements will bring, there are very
material advantages in possessing a broad knowledge
outside of one's special and necessarily narrow field.
  There can be no question that among the so-called
cultural studies, English composition and English lit-
erature are of greatest importance, and offer the most
direct route to a wide range of knowledge, human sym--
pathies, and human understanding. English composi-
tion, in particular, is a powerful tool among the other
tools of the engineer. We may have no desire to mas-
ter the violin, the putting of paint upon canvas may
hold no thrills for us, but in the use of words we are all
performers of necessity as well as of desire. It is too
often true that words are a matter of concern only to
those trying to hold gay sinners from perdition, or law-
breakers from the oblivion of prison.
  The engineer is frequently required to frame re-
ports, both oral and written, upon the work in which
he is engaged, and, since he is presumed to be an edu-
cated man, suspicion is cast upon the entire range of
his learning if he does not speak or write like one. It
is almost banal to remark that, to carry conviction,
these reports must be not only technically sound, but
they must be orderly and logical in arrangement, thor-
ough but concise, and phrased in clear, forceful, clean-
cut English.
  The head of a large industrial corporation is quoted,
in this connection, as saying, "We can get plenty of
men who are technically competent, who are careful and
                (Continued on page 54)
Volume 27, No. 3

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