[ by Charles Cameron — a minor contribution to the discussion about STEM-to-stern education ]
I really don’t want to put too much weight on this — for one thing, John Boyd was, if Wiki is not mistaken, the possessor of a Batchelor’s in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech — but I do think it’s a bit foolish for the Navy to put most all of its eggs in the engineering basket.
Food to chew on…
Lt. Alexander P. Smith, USN, Navy Needs Intellectual Diversity:
To me, diversity is more than gender, race, religion and sexual orientation; it also includes the intellectual background each officer brings to the force. Starting in 2014, however, the vast majority of all NROTC graduates will be STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) majors with minimal studies in humanities. Our Navy is about to go through unprecedented compartmentalization, but not many officers seem to realize it. [ … ]
Few metrics are considered when determining who gets an interview in the nuclear-reactor community. Most midshipmen certainly have strong grade-point averages, but the principal criterion was how they performed in calculus and physics, not their major.
This begs the question: Does the tier system produce better submariners or more proficient naval officers? If less than 35 percent of our Unrestricted Line Officers possess the unique quality of comprehensive thinking through critical reading and reflection, what will the force look like in 20 years?
These are questions to consider when discerning the benefits and disadvantages of STEM graduates. We should not forget the value of future officers developing a keen interest of foreign affairs, history or language.
LCDR Benjamin “BJ” Armstrong, Engineering and the Humanities: The View from Patna’s Bridge
:Cultural understanding, emotional intelligence and empathy are fundamental parts of good leadership, and also a part of modern naval concepts like international partnerships. They come from experience. It is my great hope, however, that I will never have to experience all of the trials and challenges my fellow sailors face in life in order to help them. What a tragic life that could be. Instead, I’d rather read my share of Shakespeare, Hemingway, or O’Brian, which might help me learn a thing or two about emotion and about the way people face different challenges in their lives, even at sea. Reading the biographies of great leaders, the histories of battles both large and small, and the classics of strategy, helps me learn from the mistakes and successes of others rather than have to learn only from my own multitude of mistakes.
Oh, and to throw some high-grade jalapeño into the stew…
Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog, in their hugely contested paper Engineers of Jihad:
The only other case in which we find a trace of engineers’ prominence outside of
Islamic violent groups is, consistently with the mindset hypothesis, among the most
extreme right-wing movements, especially in the US and in Germany, where it is all
the more striking again given the general low level of education of the members of
such groups. Here we have perhaps the only other case in which the mindset alone has
activated engineers into resorting to violent action – their absolute number is tiny, but
disproportionate relative to other types of graduates.
Oops — too much pepper, pehaps?
Look, I come from the arts side of the house.
In Education: a call for actors, directors, composers, conductors, I’ll get as deep into why arts and humanities training might be important — particularly for analysts and decision-makers — as the two naval writers cited above suggest it might be for the future of the Navy.
And no offence to engineers, please. It’s thought I’m hoping to stir up, not trouble.
Pictured atop this post:
Admiral Grace Hopper, USN, was among other things the first person to write a compiler for a computer programming language.