A Response to ‘Breeding the tech elite'

Libby Rainey from The Daily Californian wrote a rather opinionated article about her “violent” experience with a Google-Glass-wearing student.

The author throws around generic stereotypes about EECS and CS students in order to question their aspirations and awareness of social responsibilities.

That’s not journalism #

The bias in the article is somewhat uncalled for. In order to bring up the growing issues in gentrification, Libby attempts to connect unnecessary stereotypical descriptions about EECS and CS students with the possible lack of social awareness that these students may have.

There is no reason to point out the “disheveled” attire of an individual. If anything, Libby tries to tie judgement of looks with judgement of character. I wear sweats all the time and I love it. However, this doesn’t mean I haven’t given any thought towards what I want to do after I graduate.

Libby already decided upon what she wanted to write about and crafted her evidence to fit her narrowed view. Libby quotes Robert Reich as a segway into her main point about engineers being blissfully ignorant about the society they are within:

Innovative, fun, lucrative — it makes sense that a little shouting about gentrification takes a backseat to these exciting career prospects.

This, if anything, seems to be the main point she makes. Opportunities overshadow social responsibilities and issues. It’s a topic definitely worth investigating, but Libby doesn’t even acknowledge the latter half of Reich’s quote that undermines her point:

Most young people I encounter still consider high tech glamorous, fun, lucrative and, for the most part, socially responsible.

Yes, it’s a real issue #

There is a real issue here; growing income inequalities between the tech industry and everything else is frightening. I’ve read the articles about how SF landlords are pushing rents higher to make room for tech workers with higher wages and how some technologies are making traditional jobs obsolete. I am aware of these issues and I do feel that discussion and action is needed.

That being said, the way to get this conversation started about social awareness shouldn’t be through extrapolating an engineer’s apathy towards society. Rather, why not ask the students about what they think their responsibility towards society is?

Some students may match Libby’s description of social apathy, but many don’t. What about the numerous campus groups that are dedicated to code for non-profits? What about the teaching assistants and tutors that spend countless hours helping students learn their trade?

If Libby wants to investigate the social awareness of engineers, she should! But sweeping generalizations isn’t journalistic research.

So call me maybe #

Lastly, a lack of response from a text doesn’t mean that someone is socially irresponsible. That being said, Libby: your article has stirred up quite a commotion and we’re listening to what you have to say now. Let’s have an actual in-depth discussion, rather than just assuming us engineers are mindless about our future plans.


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