Is Our Education System Failing Students?

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In summary, the students were intelligent and driven, but were afraid of making mistakes and instead relied on the Feynman physics method.
  • #1
Angry Citizen
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I'm annoyed. I'm just an engineering undergrad myself, so technically I'm one of these people. But lately I've just become so sick of students, particularly undergrads, who have absolutely no drive to learn, and are unwilling to put out any effort towards figuring things out. They expect their hands to be held, and aren't willing to just sit down and think things through to their logical conclusions.

You can see some of this in the homework help sections here on PF. You'll get these people posting who have no idea what they're doing, even though a tiny amount of thought could let them arrive at the right answer. I don't want to post the example I have in mind, because it's cruel to mock people publicly for not being very smart, but it's annoying to me. They post here the day before their assignment is due with all these silly questions that could be easily answered if they had just paid attention in lecture, or at least had the decency to do a quick google search. How are any of these people going to succeed in life if they don't take some personal responsibility for their own education?

I want to become one of the contributors/helpers on here now that I'm starting to reach some basic understanding of aerospace engineering and physics, but this kind of stuff just puts me off -_-
 
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  • #2
If you think that the OP in question doesn't want to put in the effort, then feel free to report the thread.
 
  • #3
This same sort of thing really frustrated me when I first started tutoring, but I've mostly gotten over it. If you're in a position to tutor one of them or answer their questions, I've found that the best method is to not give into their laziness. They want to frustrate you into just giving them the answers, but don't let them.
 
  • #4
I agree with Jack21222: just let them figure it out.

If you give them the answers and they really have absolutely no intention of putting in any effort then that just sends the signal that they can get away with it.

It's like giving a junkie more smack: the junkie loves it because they get what they want even though they are wasting away their life and possibly affecting others around them (including making them really angry, especially if they want to help them).

I'd advise you to find the ones that want to put the effort in and you'll be much happier and still be helping people and let the others come into contact with those who just don't see that they are making things worse.

You are not a bad person to ignore others who have a different outlook and attitude than yourself: we are all different and we all have different expectations and this idea that everyone will just naturally work with others and get along is just ignorant of how the world works.

It's one thing to respect anyone though: that's another thing. Respecting people means letting them do whatever the hell they want (even if it doesn't feel right to you) and letting them deal with the consequences of their actions without harboring any kind of mental or physical resentment towards them and I do understand how hard that is (especially when all you really want to do is to help them as a natural instinctual response).

Let them live their lives, face their consequences and find your own life to live by your own values to face your own consequences: you can't get a better deal than that right?
 
  • #5
A lot of engineers are like that get used to it. At least in America where the majority of us (my home country) are pathetic.
 
  • #6
Jack21222 said:
This same sort of thing really frustrated me when I first started tutoring, but I've mostly gotten over it. If you're in a position to tutor one of them or answer their questions, I've found that the best method is to not give into their laziness. They want to frustrate you into just giving them the answers, but don't let them.

I did some tutoring also calculus,mechanics and basic e&m. My impression was that the students I had were not lazy but somewhat afraid or insecure. A lot of times I asked them how would they think of solving a problem and then try to convince them to actually do it. Most of the time they got it right.Most of the students were smart and driven but they were so afraid to make mistakes that they didn't try their ideas. They all want to do the Feynman physics method instead of (what I hope to be) the usual method of trying your ideas and sometimes(to often) realizing that you wrote a couple of pages of nonsense.
 
  • #7
Don't be frustrated. Take the opportunity to do your best and stand out. If you are in the US, this is unfortunately how they've been taught to learn and habits are hard to break. High school math is nothing more than regurgitating algorithms to solve a problem that they've already seen with some numbers changed. Be the thinker, ask questions, go to the library when you have a problem or idea, find other thinking students, get to know your professors. They will love you and you will be rewarded.
 
  • #8
"What do you mean no effort? I put the question on the forum!"
 
  • #9
Angry Citizen said:
I'm just an engineering undergrad myself, so technically I'm one of these people.
Not just technically. You are one of them. This is what you said about learning various integration techniques:
Angry Citizen said:
There is literally no reason to know them.
The difference between you and the students you deride is a matter of degree, not kind.
 
  • #10
D H said:
Not just technically. You are one of them. See [post=4133293]this post[/post]. The difference between you and the students you deride is a matter of degree, not kind.

Pardon me, but I most certainly am not. I fail to see the usefulness of memorizing advanced integration techniques, and I think I made my point quite clear. My perspective is colored by my engineering background, where numerical/computer methods are infinitely preferable to analytic methods in the vast majority of real-world circumstances. You'll forgive my reliance on computers, but frankly it's just plain more efficient.

In other words, please get off your high horse. It's called having a difference of opinion. It is flat out mistaken to say that I'm someone who doesn't want to think just because I'm more concerned with the physics of a given situation than the mathematics involved.
 
  • #11
Angry Citizen said:
Pardon me, but I most certainly am not. I fail to see the usefulness of memorizing advanced integration techniques, and I think I made my point quite clear. My perspective is colored by my engineering background, where numerical/computer methods are infinitely preferable to analytic methods in the vast majority of real-world circumstances. You'll forgive my reliance on computers, but frankly it's just plain more efficient.

In other words, please get off your high horse. It's called having a difference of opinion. It is flat out mistaken to say that I'm someone who doesn't want to think just because I'm more concerned with the physics of a given situation than the mathematics involved.

You are not very concerned with the physics of the situation, if you do not have enough "drive to learn" integration techniques.

Integration techniques (e.g., substitution, parts, partial fractions, etc.) transform an integral into an integral that looks different. The transformed integral sometimes makes differing physical effects more apparent in a way that a symbolic answer which Mathematica might spit out, doesn't.

Why limit yourself?
 
  • #12
Integration techniques (e.g., substitution, parts, partial fractions, etc.) transform an integral into an integral that looks different. The transformed integral sometimes makes differing physical effects more apparent in a way that a symbolic answer which Mathematica might spit out, doesn't.

I have never once encountered a situation like this.

Why limit yourself?

I don't. I'm fully aware of the existence of these techniques. That is sufficient should I ever really find myself in need of an advanced integration technique. I haven't yet. Knowing integration by parts and substitution, which I don't consider "advanced", has been sufficient.
 
  • #13
meh... I didn't have the drive to learn them, but I learned them... and I haven't used them once in my research since. The computer; it does everything. Hundreds of people who are interested more in mathematics have already written all the algorithms you will ever need; you just have to find them and learn how to use them; focus on what you're interested in, don't jump through intellectual hoops just because old people are mad that you don't have to learn what they learned.
 
  • #14
fireextinguisher.jpg
 
  • #15
whats wrong with them? that's their choice.

also, some people think things are obvious, other people less so. I had a double pulley Lagrangian problem that I just couldn't solve regardless of how much time I put into it until I begged for help and someone told me the obvious solution.

however i believe that your complaint says more about the type of person you are, than others. you seem to have a low tolerance to those different and less able than you are.
 
  • #16
Angry Citizen said:
I want to become one of the contributors/helpers on here now that I'm starting to reach some basic understanding of aerospace engineering and physics, but this kind of stuff just puts me off -_-

Don't do it then. It's a win-win situation.

You don't get annoyed. We don't have to see a whinging thread in GD.
 
  • #17
Isn't the whole point of engineering to get a result with minimum effort? Making things cheaper, more reliable, and faster are important in engineering, so why would the students choose a slower path when that's not what they're going to be doing at a job?

I'm an EE student and I completely understand why a chunk of engineering students don't care about the basics of their disciplines; because that's not how it's taught. Personally, it drives me nuts and every day I am frustrated with how engineering school is done. Only on special occasions are there lectures/HW that stress the derivations/theory of the topic, and those are the lectures where most of my friends say "Well, that was a waste of time." Most days the lectures are just going through problem after problem learning some unmotivated tricks to solve them. The students tend to like those ones, I mean it makes the problem sets go a little faster when they're just thrown the equations and don't have to think about knowing what they really mean.

For problem sets, I am sad with engineering because it's mostly the same problem over and over. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and the amount of work needed to complete one assignment most students tend to resort to computers to solve things. This takes even more understanding away from learning and I must say that I've fallen into that trap as well but I can't say it's not motivated. I look at the math and physics majors problem sets and they are so much more conceptual than an engineering one. I can see why math/physics people are frustrated with how engineers approach problems but I don't think it will ever change.
 
  • #18
DrummingAtom said:
I look at the math and physics majors problem sets and they are so much more conceptual than an engineering one. I can see why math/physics people are frustrated with how engineers approach problems but I don't think it will ever change.

This is not directed at you, it's more of a general thing.

Seeing as this thread began on vitriol, it's time for me to vent a spleen about this. You see the above from a lot of people on his forum. 'Engineering is not intellectually rigorous', 'it's not this, it's not that.' If you wanted 'extreme rigour' that borders on mental masturbation you should have done some sot of pure or applied physics.Engineering is not about conceptually solving problems. It's about producing practical solutions to problems. An engineer requires a massively diverse skill set, probably more than any other profession. Engineering encompasses business practices, legal practices, marketing, management of men, time, budget and resources. That's on top of actually solving the technical problem.

It's why engineers work in teams, large base skill set with a couple of specialties.Oh and as much as they may get frustrated with us. We get annoyed with the mountains of theoretically brilliant, but practically useless crap maths people spew at us.
 
  • #19
xxChrisxx said:
We get annoyed with the mountains of theoretically brilliant, but practically useless crap maths people spew at us.
Speak for yourself mate. Engineering isn't a clique.
 
  • #20
WannabeNewton said:
Speak for yourself mate.

I am.

Me said:
it's time for me to vent a spleen

And I feel much better for it.
 
  • #21
George Jones said:
You are not very concerned with the physics of the situation, if you do not have enough "drive to learn" integration techniques.

Integration techniques (e.g., substitution, parts, partial fractions, etc.) transform an integral into an integral that looks different. The transformed integral sometimes makes differing physical effects more apparent in a way that a symbolic answer which Mathematica might spit out, doesn't.

Why limit yourself?

Lets be realistic. when it comes to calculus, we should all learn our limits.
 
  • #22
I agree, to some extent, that the minutiae of engineering theory (in the various subjects) can sometimes border on too much, and not value-added. However, the purpose of having students prove things, and approach problems in a mathematically and theoretically rigorous way is not simply to do math for the sake of math, but because engineers are supposed to understand in gory detail the principles they will apply later in their careers.

It is not acceptable for an engineer to make recommendations on structures under load without understanding the underlying math of beam theory. It's not enough to look at the beam bending reference charts and structures handbook. He must understand intuitively what is happening, i.e. where shear will be highest, what's happening at fixed locations, etc. This comes from studying the math.
 
  • #23
xxChrisxx said:
...

Oh and as much as they may get frustrated with us. We get annoyed with the mountains of theoretically brilliant, but practically useless crap maths people spew at us.

The "practically useless theoretical crap" is precisely what allows scientists and engineers to be so efficient when deriving meaningful results from their data.

For example, you can have confidence that the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus will always work for you because mathematicians have rigorously developed and proven the theory to be correct. Or, if you'd prefer, you can call the theory "useless crap" and begin questioning the methods behind every single calculation you make. I don't think you'd get much work done, though. :wink:
 
  • #24
Dembadon said:
The "practically useless theoretical crap" is precisely what allows scientists and engineers to be so efficient when deriving meaningful results from their data.

For example, you can have confidence that the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus will always work for you because mathematicians have rigorously developed and proven the theory to be correct. Or, if you'd prefer, you can call the theory "useless crap" and begin questioning the methods behind every single calculation you make. I don't think you'd get much work done, though. :wink:

On the other hand, I've heard of quite a few theorems that have been known for a long time, and used, and worked, and its only much much later someone has devised a formal proof of them.

So, are proofs necessary to use the formula?
 
  • #25
Depends on the use of the formula. If you build your own models, it's good to know where terms came from so you can modify appropriately.
 
  • #26
Pythagorean said:
Depends on the use of the formula. If you build your own models, it's good to know where terms came from so you can modify appropriately.

This is true, and when you encounter a novel scenario you NEED to know what went into the original formula to figure out if it still holds. But, there is a strong argument that for the great majority of engineering encounters (most bridges, structures, pumps, turbines, engines, etc), it's a matter of plugging in values into well-worn models.

Considering a great deal of engineers don't actually do engineering, but are recruited into business, finance, medical school, or law school, its important to realize it might be the case that throwing mountains of math at students isn't about making them learn math, its about testing their competency to handle high workloads. Businesses use university as a pre-screening test, and if you cut it in heavy course load engineering program then they know your competent.

I think too many students go to school because its just "the thing to do." Most of them would be better off working minimum wage for two years, or doing manual labor, seeing what that kind of life is like. If that life experience doesn't motivate you for school work, and a better future, then stick behind a shovel and be happy with it.
 
  • #27
H2Bro said:
So, are proofs necessary to use the formula?

Any fool can USE a formula (and lots of fools do). The hard part is using it CORRECTLY.

Unfortunately, that isn't often an issue with homework questions from a degree course, because you know what section of the course the questions are about and therefore what formulas you are supposed to use, and all the question have a "right answer". But once you get outside of the classroom, none of the above applies any more.

IMO the really sad thing about some of the attitudes in this thread is that people seem to think "the minimum you need to know to get a college degree" = "everything that is worth knowing about the subject". Wrong, wrong, wrong!
 
  • #28
Yeah, mental fortitude is probably an important thing to test. But then again, if somebody knows already that it's just a game to play to see a number and not the real thing, it can give a bad representation of their productivity.

For me, it's not an anti-math or anti-proof thing so much as a anti-learn-everything-2%-of-which-you'll-use thing. School seems really inefficient in this regard. Lots of institutions don't even do classes, they just put you right into research and teach you how to do research. You learn all the techniques and proofs along the way as you need them (which is really only at the beginning of each project, before you write code, when you're learning the model or system).

Of course, my preferences are idiosyncratic to modeling research.
 
  • #29
DrummingAtom said:
Isn't the whole point of engineering to get a result with minimum effort? Making things cheaper, more reliable, and faster are important in engineering, so why would the students choose a slower path when that's not what they're going to be doing at a job?

I'm an EE student and I completely understand why a chunk of engineering students don't care about the basics of their disciplines; because that's not how it's taught. Personally, it drives me nuts and every day I am frustrated with how engineering school is done. Only on special occasions are there lectures/HW that stress the derivations/theory of the topic, and those are the lectures where most of my friends say "Well, that was a waste of time." Most days the lectures are just going through problem after problem learning some unmotivated tricks to solve them. The students tend to like those ones, I mean it makes the problem sets go a little faster when they're just thrown the equations and don't have to think about knowing what they really mean.

For problem sets, I am sad with engineering because it's mostly the same problem over and over. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and the amount of work needed to complete one assignment most students tend to resort to computers to solve things. This takes even more understanding away from learning and I must say that I've fallen into that trap as well but I can't say it's not motivated. I look at the math and physics majors problem sets and they are so much more conceptual than an engineering one. I can see why math/physics people are frustrated with how engineers approach problems but I don't think it will ever change.

I'd say my hardest class EVER was Engineering Thermodynamics. It was taught the way you said and I thought it made the material *FAR HARDER* than it had to be.

The easiest "hard" class is probably upper division classical mechanics since you can at least put things into a computer solvable form with the Lagrangian, and things that you couldn't do it for, were not on teh test.

I've seen math majors problem sets and they're written in pure Greek letters. Totally incomprehensible.
 
  • #30
H2Bro said:
...

So, are proofs necessary to use the formula?

Not usually, but that wasn't the point of my post.
 
  • #31
Only on special occasions are there lectures/HW that stress the derivations/theory of the topic, and those are the lectures where most of my friends say "Well, that was a waste of time."

Really? Here in aerospaceland, the majority of lectures are devoted to theory/derivations. I love every minute of it because the assumptions and simplifications are laid bare, and I know when applying the equations is possible. *shrug*
 
  • #32
So, are proofs necessary to use the formula?

It depends on the formula. I would damn well want to know how Bernoulli's equation was derived if I were to ever apply it. Bernoulli was a mystery to me in terms of applications until I saw how it was derived and where it came from.

I also understood and remembered integration by parts when its "proof" was shown to me.

But in others, no, I don't think the proof is necessary, particularly proofs just for mathematical concepts. Physics and engineering proofs are absolutely fair game in engineering.
 
  • #33
xxChrisxx said:
Seeing as this thread began on vitriol, it's time for me to vent a spleen about this. You see the above from a lot of people on his forum. 'Engineering is not intellectually rigorous', 'it's not this, it's not that.' If you wanted 'extreme rigour' that borders on mental masturbation you should have done some sot of pure or applied physics.

Engineering is not about conceptually solving problems. It's about producing practical solutions to problems. An engineer requires a massively diverse skill set, probably more than any other profession. Engineering encompasses business practices, legal practices, marketing, management of men, time, budget and resources. That's on top of actually solving the technical problem.

Yeah, there are those pompous math/physics people but I don't fall into that category. Any STEM major is intellectual rigorous in it's own ways. But the only way I feel like I know anything is when I start from basic principles and then build from there. In engineering school, it's very stressful for that style of learning. I constantly try to learn that way but then get behind because that's not how it's done. I probably should be a physics major but it's too late now.
 
  • #34
Angry Citizen said:
Really? Here in aerospaceland, the majority of lectures are devoted to theory/derivations. I love every minute of it because the assumptions and simplifications are laid bare, and I know when applying the equations is possible. *shrug*

Maybe things are different in aerospace, I hope they are. I go to a top 10 aerospace university so I know quite a few aerospace people and actually work with a lot of them too at my job. I haven't talked to them much about how their classes are taught but I do know that the stuff I had to learn for my job (Rodrigues parameters, quanternions and a whole bunch of control theory) seemed much more interesting than circuit level EE math. Lucky you guys.
 

Related to Is Our Education System Failing Students?

1. What evidence suggests that our education system is failing students?

There are several indicators that suggest our education system is failing students. One major factor is the high dropout rates in many schools, particularly among low-income and minority students. Additionally, standardized test scores have not shown significant improvement over the years, and many students are not meeting proficiency levels in core subjects such as math and reading. Finally, the achievement gap between students of different socioeconomic backgrounds continues to persist.

2. How does the current education system impact students' future success?

The education system plays a critical role in shaping students' future success. A strong education can provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue higher education and secure well-paying jobs. On the other hand, a failing education system can limit opportunities for students and hinder their ability to compete in the job market.

3. What are some potential reasons for the failure of our education system?

There is no single answer to this question, as there are many factors that contribute to the failure of our education system. Some possible reasons include inadequate funding and resources, high teacher turnover rates, and a one-size-fits-all approach to education that does not cater to individual student needs. Additionally, issues such as poverty, lack of parental involvement, and societal pressures can also impact student success in school.

4. How can we improve the education system to better support students?

Improving the education system requires a multifaceted approach. One key aspect is increasing funding and resources for schools, particularly in low-income areas. Additionally, implementing more personalized and innovative teaching methods, such as project-based learning, can engage students and better meet their individual needs. It is also essential to address societal issues that can impact student success, such as poverty and inequality.

5. What role can teachers and parents play in addressing the failures of the education system?

Teachers and parents play a crucial role in addressing the failures of the education system. Teachers can advocate for their students and push for necessary changes in the education system. They can also work towards creating a more inclusive and engaging learning environment for their students. Parents can also be advocates for their children and work with schools to ensure their child's needs are being met. Additionally, parents can support their child's education by being involved in their learning and providing a supportive home environment.

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