2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Teaching the Non-neutral Engineer: Pathways Toward Addressing the Violence of Engineering in the Classroom

Presented at Social Justice, Social Responsibility, and Critical Pedagogies

This paper addresses the persistent problem that engineering education positions the engineering profession in neutral terms, placing moral weight not on the work of engineers but on the ad hoc uses of technical outcomes. We call this the “neutrality problem.” The problem plays out in common assumptions that, for instance, cars are only as violent as their users choose them to be, absolving engineers of moral responsibility for any socio-technical outcomes. The neutrality problem is not new; it has a long history of being challenged by critically engaged engineering educators. Based on interview data from undergraduate engineering students, we build on the work of these critical educators to argue for more nuanced understandings of how violence—at both interpersonal and structural levels—is conceived by activists and scholars. This work will help educators construct pathways for non-neutral engineering education.

  1. Michael Lachney Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute [biography]
  2. Dr. David Adam Banks University at Albany - SUNY [biography]
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