Bowed by the weight of many semesters he sits
Slide rule in hand, staring at the examination,
A stunned look on his face
And in his mind, confusion and panic.
Who made him dead to understanding and insight,
A thing that neither wonders nor creates,
A formula-memorizer, a brother to the digital computer?
Who led this man to depend on a bell-shapped curve,
Or passed him for correctly listing Kirchoff's laws?
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?
Is this the product of modern education theories and methods,
That presumably will graduate soon to help this world,
To feed it, to lift its burden of labor,
Transport it, help it communicate better?
All he thinks of is passing a few more exams on partial credit,
And then take the highest offer he gets.
He can't wait to sell back all his books
To buy a tape deck for his Mustang.
What gulfs between him and the inventor-scientist!
Slave of the fraternity files, what to him
Are the elements of an engineering education?
What the grasp of physics and math,
The feeling for a good approximation?
In this poor soul the entire education system is pictured.
Many years, lectures, quizzes and assignments
Have brought him to this point.
O Educators, at all levels in the system,
From grade school librarians to publish-or-perish professors,
Is this the intended fruit of your labors?
This head full of formulas and memorized example problems?
What can you do to help this boy
To restore his natural curiosity, his desire to create?
What are you doing to try to prevent
The repetition of this scene a generation hence?
O Educators, at every level of the system,
How will the future reckon with this man?
What if engineering slots are few
And only the real engineers survive the layoffs?
Would you drive over the bridge this boy designed
Or want him to teach engineering to your sons and grandsons?
Copyright 1971 by IEEE Transactions on Education
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "The Man with the Hoe, Updated".