The passage below is accompanied by a set of questions. Choose the best answer to each question.
When we teach engineering problems now, we ask students to come to a single “best” solution defined by technical ideals like low cost, speed to build, and ability to scale. This way of teaching primes students to believe that their decision-making is purely objective, as it is grounded in math and science. This is known as technical-social dualism, the idea that the technical and social dimensions of engineering problems are readily separable and remain distinct throughout the problem-definition and solution process.
Nontechnical parameters such as access to a technology, cultural relevancy or potential harms are deemed political and invalid in this way of learning. But those technical ideals are at their core social and political choices determined by a dominant culture focused on economic growth for the most privileged segments of society. By choosing to downplay public welfare as a critical parameter for engineering design, we risk creating a culture of disengagement from societal concerns amongst engineers that is antithetical to the ethical code of engineering.
In my field of medical devices, ignoring social dimensions has real consequences. . . . Most FDA-approved drugs are incorrectly dosed for people assigned female at birth, leading to unexpected adverse reactions. This is because they have been inadequately represented in clinical trials.
Beyond physical failings, subjective beliefs treated as facts by those in decision-making roles can encode social inequities. For example, spirometers, routinely used devices that measure lung capacity, still have correction factors that automatically assume smaller lung capacity in Black and Asian individuals. These racially based adjustments are derived from research done by eugenicists who thought these racial differences were biologically determined and who considered nonwhite people as inferior. These machines ignore the influence of social and environmental factors on lung capacity.
Many technologies for systemically marginalized people have not been built because they were not deemed important such as better early diagnostics and treatment for diseases like endometriosis, a disease that afflicts 10 percent of people with uteruses. And we hardly question whether devices are built sustainably, which has led to a crisis of medical waste and health care accounting for 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Social justice must be made core to the way engineers are trained. Some universities are working on this. . . . Engineers taught this way will be prepared to think critically about what problems we choose to solve, how we do so responsibly and how we build teams that challenge our ways of thinking.
Individual engineering professors are also working to embed societal needs in their pedagogy. Darshan Karwat at the University of Arizona developed activist engineering to challenge engineers to acknowledge their full moral and social responsibility through practical self-reflection. Khalid Kadir at the University of California, Berkeley, created the popular course Engineering, Environment, and Society that teaches engineers how to engage in place-based knowledge, an understanding of the people, context and history, to design better technical approaches in collaboration with communities. When we design and build with equity and justice in mind, we craft better solutions that respond to the complexities of entrenched systemic problems.
We can infer that the author would approve of a more evolved engineering pedagogy that includes all of the following EXCEPT:
Based on the passage, it is likely that the author would approve of all of the options except for Option D, which is moving towards technical-social dualism. Technical-social dualism is described in the passage as the idea that the technical and social dimensions of engineering problems are readily separable and remain distinct throughout the problem-definition and solution process. The passage criticizes this approach, arguing that it ignores the social dimensions of engineering problems and leads to a focus on technical ideals such as cost and efficiency at the expense of broader societal concerns. Therefore, it is unlikely that the author would approve of moving towards technical-social dualism.
Option A is likely to be included because the passage mentions the need for engineers to be aware of the potential impacts of their work on different groups of people, including the environment. It is suggested that ignoring these factors can result in technologies that are not sustainable, which can contribute to a crisis of medical waste and health care, accounting for 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Option B is likely to be included because the passage discusses the consequences of ignoring social dimensions in engineering, such as physical failures and the perpetuation of social inequities. It suggests that a more responsible approach to technical design and problem-solving would consider the full range of stakeholders and the potential impacts of a technology on different groups of people.
Option C is likely to be included because the passage emphasizes the importance of considering social justice in engineering education and practice. It mentions courses focusing on place-based knowledge and community engagement as examples of efforts to incorporate social justice into engineering education. Such an approach would involve designing technologies that are responsive to the needs of communities, using local knowledge and taking into account local priorities.
Hence, Option D is the correct choice.
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