Friday, September 5, 2008

Ferstunkena Power

Bureaucratic power tends to increase. Accreditation of engineering schools is firmly under the control of a national organization called ABET. Originally intended to protect the public from fly-by-night schools, the board has over the years come to think that it knows more than all the universities, deans and professors put together. The result is a uniform curriculum and a great loss in educational creativity. Only a few great schools like Stanford and MIT, whose public reputations make them immune to ABET criticism, can afford to ignore the dictates of ABET. This is particularly true of the area called engineering design, which in most cases is nothing more than a glorified apprenticeship program that should take place in industry not in school. There is no better example of power corrupting well-meaning people who fall prey to the notion that they know better than everyone else. This kind of arrogance is common in all types of bureaucracy.