When ever computer science teachers get together and talk about what makes their life difficult school guidance counselors come into the discussion. Listen in and you will hear stories of guidance “dumping” unqualified students into CS classes to fill elective needs, counselors advising students to avoid CS because “there are not jobs there” or because “colleges want to see more foreign languages on the transcript”, and other tails of counselors who just don’t appreciate computer science education.
This came up in the CSTA blog recently with a post titled “What School Counselors Need to Know About CS” I’ll tell you that blog has been on a roll lately and this post contributed by Dr. Debra Richardson, Dean of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California at Irvine packs a punch.
Two paragraphs in particular are worth repeating (emphasis mine):
I’m going to repeat a somewhat controversial quote, but it’s something that is echoing the halls of higher education today: Computing and information “is the liberal arts education of the 21st century – the skill that can be universally applied across domains to help solve the toughest scientific, economic and social problems. Nurturing and energizing the next generation of liberal arts specialists will bring about new dreams and new discoveries.”
It was Dan Reed, Director of the Renaissance Computing Institute who I first heard say this, and it’s just so true. Today’s college graduates simply can’t call themselves properly educated for the 21st century if they don’t have appropriate fluency in computing and information technology.
There you have it. In the future, and I think that future is coming fast, students who are not fluent in computing and information will not be seen as properly educated. Not quite “reading, [w]riting and [p]rogramming” but close. Insert the broad “computational thinking” as an extension of math that includes programming concepts (can you search a database without Boolean expressions? Not really.) and I think you get the picture. There are far sighted people who are starting to say out loud that computer science (not applications usage either) should be a required course.
The guidance department needs to understand that computer science will soon no longer be optional and if they really want to prepare students for the future they should work with computer science educators and not against them.