ENGINEERING IS the most vital discipline as without it we could not imagine being able to sustain our rich lives, yet it is not taught in our schools nor is our education system’s syllabus engineered.
When we are born, we already know a lot but still have much to learn. In our mother’s womb, we become conscious of our surroundings and the sounds and rhythms of life. We develop a sense of our own identity, motion, the ability to hear and recognise our mother’s voice and the character of the laughter and speech forms that we heard spoken in the womb.
As we emerge to join our society, we experience and feel pleasure and pain. We respond and start to recognise shapes and appreciate the sweet taste and smell of our mother’s milk and the comfort of human warmth, and much more. So we have the tool kit we need to begin the lifelong learning journey necessary for human existence, survival and development that we call education. Without this learning process, human life, as we know it, could not exist.
Human progress so far is due to our amazing and superior innate abilities and supreme mental capacity, and the nurturing process that is the fundamental characteristic of a healthy, stable loving family in a well organised secure modern society. Without devotion to a child’s education and our innate understanding of the value of every individual and the critical importance of the learning process, we never would have been able to elevate our condition so far above what was imaginable to our forefathers.
Now we understand the economic importance of man’s capacity to specialise and how the focussed individual human mind, channelled with a purpose and powered by enthusiasm can penetrate beyond the boundaries of established knowledge and understanding and realise previously undreamt of possibilities. This process of specialism, innovation and evolution has no limits given the right learning environment and the security and encouragement an enlightened society provides for individual freedom, imaginative thought and ambition.
While the broad outlines of human knowledge could once be taught and absorbed by a normal intelligent, well rounded individual living in a free society, the process of specialisation that generates our wealth and contributed so much to our progress, has inexorably quantised our educational processes. Different specialisms and understanding are isolated and have become increasingly encapsulated in separate silos. Teachers of different subjects, in the same school, may understand little about the significance and importance of the teaching of other subjects by professionals engaged in the disconnected education of the very same child.
Children taught this way see their many subjects as being unrelated. Every subject no longer even attempts to address its full scope, as it unavoidably has to be taught as only one of many subjects and activities in the curriculum.
The rote learning of the past has been replaced by specialised instruction that pretends to track the latest scientific discoveries, social developments, human arts, practices and political and religious fashion. By definition, the way we now teach even the essential standard subjects, English, Mathematics and Science as well as History, Geography and so on requires us to adapt and change the curriculum as well as its content, and also compels us to change the means and methods of instruction, continuously.
Amongst all the turmoil and argument about the best way to prepare our children for life and the purpose of their education, we have lost sight of any unifying concept that would integrate the disparate tools that we need to give to our young people. The central role that was once the role of religion would not suffice today.
While it is still accepted by most that standard subjects should be taught to every child to above a certain minimal level, we are no longer providing that or the context and understanding necessary for their future successful independent development.
The loss of meaningful integration of what we are teaching and an almost complete lack of useful context means that children cannot be enthused about any subject for which they do not have an innate facility or brilliant inspirational teaching. As a consequence, we have evolved into a society that is becoming so incoherently specialized and poorly educated that it wants collective responsibility to compensate for individual incapacity.
In a reductio absurdium, it is believed that the government should be tasked with both improving the lot of society in general and individual groups and interests, and causes in particular. All this points to the inability of many, especially young individuals, to believe and trust in their own ability. Our educational shortcomings result in both failure and extremism. We obviously need a unifying integrating useful central core to make our primary education system work and to replace the unfocussed one we have allowed to evolved.
Making things work, whether organisations or lives, requires the application of maths and science, the ability to conceive, design and communicate an understanding of nature, place, history and context, and of the product purpose and its environment. Having a clear useful life purpose necessitates a unifying ubiquitous discipline that can only be fulfilled by engineering. Yet, this essential central integrational and executional discipline is not used to construct the syllabus let alone taught in our schools at an early age to every child. It would be no more difficult to teach children the art and disciplines of engineering that it would be to teach any other subject.
Perhaps the reason it is not yet taught at school, although it is often partly glimpsed, and learned through play and sometimes taught in the home by industrious and productive parenting, is because of the impact it would have on the way all other subjects were taught and the way the syllabus itself would require to be engineered. Engineered rather than re-engineered because what we have today is a flawed politicised system that has evolved chaotically and is now fragmented to the point that it is not longer an integrated, complete and effective offering that can equip our children with the sound education necessary to compete in an ever more complex and challenging world.
We need an educational system centred on teaching engineering and its principles because we need our children to be capable of thinking, organising, designing and making things that work and operate to the necessary standard. We need to teach engineering at school to secure our survival as a productive, competitive and civilised society and to understand that all knowledge and specialism exists to serve that central purpose.