It's no secret that Sheldon (played by Jim Parsons in The Big Bang Theory) despises engineers. It's the kind of hatred that feels nonsensical and primal, as if it's coming from a deeper darker place than mere snobbery. His disdain for his friend Howard (Simon Helberg), whom he describes as "only an engineer," is comical yet alarming. What would drive a person to loathe a profession? We finally get our answer on Young Sheldon, and it's classic Sheldon. So, why does he hate engineers?
Why does Sheldon hate engineers?
It sure is fun tracing adult emotional responses back to childhood trauma, whatever that trauma may be. Sometimes, it can be something as "simple" as having trouble in a class for the first time in your educational career after building your entire self-worth around your intelligence. That's what we learn about Sheldon (Iain Armitage) in Season 5 of Young Sheldon.
At this point in Sheldon's academic career, he is 12 years old and is attending East Texas Tech, where he takes his first engineering class. If you can believe it, his know-it-all attitude isn't received well by the course's teacher, Professor Boucher (played by the always wonderful Lance Reddick). Professor Boucher doesn't suffer fools or a-- kissers.
When the class is given a project to construct a bridge, Sheldon fails, and Professor Boucher has no problem making him aware of this fact. Despite his repeated attempts to repair the bridge, Sheldon can't seem to make it work, so he decides to go over Professor Boucher's head to President Hagemeyer (Wendie Malick). Not only is Professor Boucher well within his right to not give Sheldon a pass, he has tenure, which means Sheldon cannot get him fired. This moment follows Sheldon into adulthood.
Does this mean Sheldon doesn't dislike Howard?
During the bridge-building episode, we hear both Howard and Sheldon narrating. By the end, Howard says, "Wait! So after all this time, that’s your problem with engineering?" When Sheldon says yes, Howard goes on to say, "So all the teasing, and all the abuse, had nothing to do with me!" Sheldon admits that it began that way, but it ended up being mostly Howard he didn't care for. Why though?
One reason why Sheldon might not hold Howard in very high regard is the fact that Howard attended MIT, whose real-life rival is famously the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where Sheldon went. It would appear The Big Bang Theory is art imitating life. In fact, the schools don't act out this conflict via opposing sports teams. They do it through pranks.
In April 2005, Caltech students rolled out a series of pranks during MIT's Campus Preview Weekend. Students from Caltech snuck into fairs for prospective MIT freshmen where they handed out 400 T-shirts that read "MIT, because not everybody can go to Caltech." They also inflated 100 orange balloons and a blimp with the letters CIT on it, then floated them through MIT's Lobby 7. Plus, the words "That Other Institute of Technology" were written over "Massachusetts Institute of Technology."
While Sheldon might be suffering from residual college rivalry syndrome, it's very clear his issues with engineering started long before he ever met Howard. We would suggest the two get together and try to build some sort of emotional bridge between each other, to form a connection, but it seems like Sheldon wouldn't be very good at that.
The Young Sheldon fall finale airs Thursday, Dec. 9 at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.