Social Responsibility in French Engineering Education: A Historical and Sociological Analysis

Science and Engineering Ethics 19 (4):1577-1588 (2013)
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In France, some institutions seem to call for the engineer’s sense of social responsibility. However, this call is scarcely heard. Still, engineering students have been given the opportunity to gain a general education through courses in literature, law, economics, since the nineteenth century. But, such courses have long been offered only in the top ranked engineering schools. In this paper, we intend to show that the wish to increase engineering students’ social responsibility is an old concern. We also aim at highlighting some macro social factors which shaped the answer to the call for social responsibility in the French engineering “Grandes Ecoles”. In the first part, we provide an overview of the scarce attention given to the engineering curriculum in the scholarly literature in France. In the second part, we analyse one century of discourses about the definition of the “complete engineer” and the consequent role of non technical education. In the third part, we focus on the characteristics of the corpus which has been institutionalized. Our main finding is that despite the many changes which occurred in engineering education during one century, the “other formation” remains grounded on a non academic “way of knowing”, and aims at increasing the reputation of the schools, more than enhancing engineering students’ social awareness.
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L'invention de l'Ingénieur Moderne l'Ecole des Ponts Et Chaussées, 1747-1851.Picon, Antoine & Chaussées, Ecole Nationale des Ponts Et

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