Saturday, December 21

An engineer's view of academics

After having received a college fellowship and then serving as a schoolmaster, Harry Clavering decides he wants to be a civil engineer to join the ranks of those who "to do most in the world". Yet when he takes up his training he feels disdainful of his fellow engineers, one of whom remarks to his wife of highly educated people like Harry Clavering:
“I know well what such men are, and I know the evil that is done to them by the cramming they endure. They learn many names of things—high-sounding names, and they come to understand a great deal about words. It is a knowledge that requires no experience and very little real thought. But it demands much memory; and when they have loaded themselves in this way, they think that they are instructed in all things. After all, what can they do that is of real use to mankind? What can they create?”

“I suppose they are of use.”

“I don’t know it. A man will tell you, or pretend to tell you—for the chances are ten to one that he is wrong—what sort of lingo was spoken in some particular island or province six hundred years before Christ. What good will that do any one, even if he were right?”
The Claverings, by Anthony Trollope (1866)