Time to let people know that CS Rocks!

The Christian Science Monitor has an editorial about the decline in Computer Science enrollment. [Link from Kevin Briody] They point out that the number of students taking the Advanced Placement Computer Science (APCS) exam is down as is the number of people majoring in CS in college. The drop in women is even worse. This is scary to me.

People, especially students, have the wrong idea about computer science. They think it is boring work done by people locked in windowless cubicles. They think computer science doesn’t matter.

But they are wrong. OK sure some people work in cubicles but that’s about as far as it goes. Increasingly projects involve more interaction with people and not less. Developers today need to share ideas and plans with their peers. It is more social today. You need communication skills. And what developers do can make a difference.

There is a bigger message though. Bill Gates has been quoted as saying that after medicine computer science has the biggest opportunities to make a positive difference for society. I happen to think he’s right. When I talk to high school students (which I do a lot but would like to do even more) I tell them to think not about money, though the money in computer science is good, not about jobs, though there really are lots of CS jobs, but to think about the chance to change the world for the better.

I think that computer science teachers as the high school and younger level are important for the future of the US and the world. It is up to them to communicate an excitement for the opportunities that computer science provides. As the motto for the Computer  Science Teachers Association (CSTA) goes, “CS Rocks!”

We have to let kids know the truth. We have to let school boards know that CS education is important. We have to start making a difference. If you are a teacher and I can help you please let me know.

- Alfred

BTW if you are a K-12 computer science teacher you will want to look into the Computer Science Teachers Association.

Comments (6)

  1. k4knee says:

    It doesn’t help that we keep hearing all the stories about jobs being outsourced to other parts of the world. Kids are not going to stream to a field where the perception is that they won’t be able to find a job, or that it will be pulled out from under them in the short-term.

  2. You are right of course that the news is not helping things. And some jobs are going overseas but not as many as you would think from the media. Microsoft has 1000s of openings. Google is hiring. So is Yahoo. In fact companies are stealing (figuratively) people from each other because there is a shortage of the really best people. I tend to believe that the boring jobs are going overseas. Historically that is what has happened. The exciting jobs, the ones that bring about the brand new things, are the ones that are staying. Getting that message out is the hard part.

  3. You can’t just look at the AP CS Exam. In fact, I think you have to pay extra to take that one since it isn’t core math or language. I never took it, but I’m interning at Microsoft this year. The problem I saw was that I could keep up with the computer world faster than my teachers could so the computer classes that were offered were pointless because I already knew the information taught.

  4. damien morton says:

    In the industry I am currently working in (finance/banking), I often hear the term Computer Science used in a derisory manner – i.e. "we are building things, not doing computer science projects". Ironic, considering that without computer science, these guys would still be using the abacus.

    Interestingly enough, the stuff they are building is limited by the lack of computer science that they apply to their problems. They would rather bang out an endless stream of boiler plate than try to solve the general problem, and the boilerplate they bang out is low-quality because they tend to hire low-quality programmers (not sure if thats their preference, or if their derision of CS is a self-fulfilling prophecy).

    In hindsight, I wouldnt recommend CS to someone who doesnt love it (as I do, and have since I was 12 years old). Long hours, maddening problems, limited money, lack of social status/respect, lack of socialisation, and a highly volatile employment market (just look at the history of CS jobs over the last 20 years – its all over the place, and the next 20 years promises to be the same).

    Theres not a single CS graduate in congress (and only 3 who claim the title engineer). This gives us an indication of how little power CS graduates wield.

  5. McGurk says:

    You gotta be keeking me??? I am a CS graduate. Less noobs working for pennies on my dollar flushed into the system is a GOOD THING (tm Martha). Let them be lawyers and doctors and such. I just bot a house, gotdangit!!!

  6. I found this article in the International Herald Tribue today. I wrote recently about the need to tell…

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