Engineering Education and Policymaking in China: Historical Forces, Current Practices, and Global Challenges
This work is now under contract and is to be submitted to the Brill Publishers.
As a rising power in global economy, China has developed world’s largest engineering education system. However, little (if any) systematic research has been conducted to understand the professional formation of Chinese engineers. This monograph will be the first book-length contribution on the historical, social, and political environment in which Chinese engineers become who they are. This book consists of seven chapters. The first chapter introduces the dominant images of engineering education in China that make the “China model” a unique case in global engineering education. By examining the changing meaning of the image “practical engineer,” the second chapter reviews the historical development of engineering education in the People’s Republic of China since 1949. The third chapter examines how historical and political forces were integrated into the development of Chinese engineering education institutions by looking at a specific case Dalian University of Technology which was the first engineering school completely created by the Communist Party. The fourth and fifth chapters discuss the cultures and methods of making engineering education policies in China in a global context. The sixth chapter places the discussion of China’s engineering education policymaking in a cross-national context. It compares how China and India (two BRIC countries) who produce the two largest populations of engineers historically faced similar challenges but responded to these challenges differently. The last chapter synthesizes the findings from previous chapters and summarizes the most recent policy innovations in China that aim to change the image of engineering education system from a “large country in engineering education” to a “strong country in engineering education.”
Confucian Ethics of Technology and Engineering
Blame-Laden Moral Rebukes and the Morally Competent Robot: A Confucian Ethical Perspective (in collaboration with the MIRROR Lab)
Recent research has suggested that humans often perceive robots as moral agents, which suggests that robots will be expected to adhere to the moral norms that govern human behavior. Moreover, our own recent research suggests that robots may be able to unintentionallyinfluence the moral norms that humans believe to apply within their current context. As such, we argue that a truly socially integrated robot must be able to clearly communicate its willingness to adhere to shared moral norms. We further argue that such a robot must also be willing to communicate its objection to others’ proposed violations of such norms, through, for example, blame-laden moral rebukes, even if such rebukes would violate other standing norms such as politeness, which are also necessary for social and ethical human-robot interaction. Based on how robots respond to norm violations, they have the persuasive power to weaken or strengthen the shared moral norms in human-robot interaction. In this paper, by drawing on the resources in Confucian ethics, we argue that this ability to respond to unethical human requests using blame-laden moral rebukes is crucial for robots to contribute to cultivating the “moral ecology” of the human-robot system, and can and should be considered as one criterion for assessing a robot’s level of artificial moral agency.
Ethics Autobiography as a Tool for Moral Pedagog and Assessment
Most engineering educators recognize the necessity--and challenges--of teaching students moral sensitivity. As recently pointed out by some scholars, along with moral sensitivity, promoting “self-knowledge” is significantly lacking in engineering curricula. We suggest that a version of the “Ethics Autobiography” employed in some health and psychological science programs can serve as a useful tool for teaching engineering students moral sensitivity and self-reflective competencies. This project first sets up a historical and cultural context within which moral sensitivity and self-reflection are needed in engineering education. It then reports our experience using the Ethics Autobiography in an introductory ethics course at an engineering college: We asked students to write two ethics autobiographies, one at the beginning and the other at the end of the semester. In the first ethics autobiography, we asked students to write a diary of day, evaluate each entry for ethical implications and discuss their most fundamental ethical principles, ranking of those principles, and the source(s) of those principles. In the second ethics autobiography, we asked students to revisit the first autobiography and reevaluate the ethics entailed in the entries. Students were asked to reevaluate their own ethical principles included in the first autobiographies and connect their ethical principles to the classical ethical theories studied in the course. We compared students’ early and later autobiographies and assessed to what extent and in what sense their moral sensitivity and self-reflective competencies were cultivated. Compared to ethics autobiographical pedagogical activities in other professional education fields, our approach has some distinct objectives such as: a. gaining insights into students’ difficulties contextualizing ethics theories in their everyday moral decision-making, b. identifying the most prevalent moral judgment schemas among students c. discovering the social factors that shaped the formation of students’ moral judgment schemas and moral habits. This project also explores the implications of our research findings for engineering ethics education reform and reflections on the limitations and ethical considerations of using autobiography in moral pedagogy. We have presented preliminary results at the following conferences: 18th International Conference on Ethics Across the Curriculum (2016), Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) 26th Annual International Conference (2017). Currently, we are working on a manuscript that will be later submitted to an ethics education journal.
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