Letters 4/11/2013

To BA or not to BA?
Most readers share Leland Teschler’s belief that BA degrees aren’t worth much, but some attribute their career success to them. Readers also agree that Boeing bit off more than it could chew when it used a new design/manufacturing approach on its 787 Dreamliner.

A BA: What’s it worth?
Going to college to get a degree was helpful in my career (“The Meaningless BA Degree,” Leland Teschler’s Feb. 25 blog entry). Without my degree, I would not have been promoted to the level I am today. I was promoted over people because I have a degree. Earning a BA degree shows you can set a goal and follow through. Most people in my generation only have a high-school diploma, but those who want to excel in a big company need a degree to back up their job experience. You can’t even get a interview with my company for a management position without a degree.

James Binder

The truth, as with so many things, lies somewhere in the middle. “BA versus BS” is a subject worth debating, but the answer is not to eliminate the BA. While Mr. Murray gained much acclaim for The Bell Curve, much of it was also later questioned. It is disingenuous for him, Clarey, or others to call BA degrees “worthless.” In 40 years of working, and 35 of those–years involved hiring people, I have found more coherentsentence- writing ability among BA graduates than among engineers or CPAs. If we follow the direction that Clarey and some of your readers are suggesting, our colleges and universities will end up as glorified trade schools.

Robert Neville

I completely agree that BAs are worthless. Most young adults are told they need a college degree to be successful. But this is far from true and many young adults would get much more benefit from our severely undervalued trade schools.

BA’s are also getting worse as everyone seems to have one or be getting one. This devalues the time and money put into earning a BA and makes it less likely or even impossible to gain any return on these investments. At this point, only an MA or years of experience distinguish possible employees. (But an MA requires an even larger investment of time and money.)

Certifications do seem like the logical way to go, but only if employers recognize the certifications and make decisions based on them.

Brian Salyer

For any high-school graduate considering college, I strongly recommend reading Worthless, a book by Aaron Clarey, before choosing a major. He pulls no punches and doesn’t try to sugarcoat anything. Summarizing his book, BA degrees are generally worthless (low pay and little likelihood of getting a job in your field) while BS degrees are generally worthwhile (higher pay, likely to work in your field). In general, the more math involved, the better. Obviously there are exceptions, which he discusses. His own major, for example, was a BS in finance, which required much math. However, he describes it as a “jack of all trades, master of none” accounting degree and it didn’t qualify him for anything more than analyzing bank loans. He says he would have been far better off getting a CPA or accounting degree with statistics. He might make you angry, but at least he’ll make you seriously think before making one of the biggest investments in your life.

Eric Boone

I totally agree that BA degrees are useless. Still, the backward company I work for will not promote you into management without said paper. They do not realize how they stifle the engineering department when you have people with 30+ years of real life experience having to listen to “educated” management that really have no clue.

Name withheld

Dreamliner or nightmare?
Boeing made a huge paradigm leap from OEM/assembler of planes to system integrator when it took on the Dreamliner project (“The Dreamliner: Too Much Outsourcing or Normal Teething Problems?” from the Jan. 9 blog of Stephen Mraz). As engineers we should all take stock in such a huge change in manufacturing style and the delays and perils associated with it, especially on a global manufacturing scale.

It is obvious to most of us that Boeing’s marketing drove the new process faster than its engineering and manufacturing groups were really ready for. This is the nature of radical process change. It is unfortunate that there have been so many truly hazardous events surrounding the 787. We should all wish Boeing the best and learn from their tribulations.

John Hebrank

The new paradigm for building this airplane was a management decision, not an engineering one. Boeing engineers strongly opposed this shift for sound technical reasons but were overruled.

Del Wilson

The 787’s electrical problems could stem from the fact that traditional electrical-engineering skills have weakened over the years with the modern emphasis on .com-this and i-that. The markets seem to have moved from tangible products to a more-virtual, servicebased economy where the opportunities and innovation, as well as the smartest students who once would have gone into engineering, have migrated.

Boeing’s systems-integration business approach taken with the Dreamliner presumes that all the fundamental bases are completely covered, which they rarely are. The approach also makes accountability difficult to enforce while the lowest bidders often don’t get there without cutting corners somewhere along the way. Unless the integrator/ project manager has the background and experience to ask the right questions, a flawless launch requires a considerable bit of luck.

Ed Zentra

Real or Photoshopped?
Have you looked at the photo of the Sopwith Dolphin in your recent issue (“Only 45 Years To Restore World War I Fighter,” Feb. 14)? It sure looks like a model siting on an undersized piece of astroturf, not a full-size aircraft.

Harry Seaman

I can verify that the photo of the Sopwith Dolphin is of a real, fullsize aircraft now on display in the Grahame White Factory at our London site.

The photo was taken outside our conservation centre at Cosford. We wanted to photograph the aircraft on grass but this was not possible due to weather. The aircraft is sitting on camouflage netting and this is where the confusion may have come from. —Darren Priday, Deputy Manager, Michael Beetham Conservation Centre

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