Posts Tagged ‘computer science’

High School Computer Science AP courses only as popular as Latin

April 14, 2008

Here we go, another article lamenting the lack of interest in Computer Science by the young. A telling indicator is the dropping of one of the AP Computer Science exams due to a lack of interest.

It’s unfair BTW to denigrate Latin to make a point about CS. Right up to the 20th century, it was considered in the West a necessary part of a proper education to know Latin, and Greek as well. Latin is the ancestor of a number of European languages, and it makes up a great deal of the vocabulary of English, which has replaced Latin as the lingua franca of the published world. Latin couldn’t hurt when interviewing for a job at the Vatican, and better yet, it’s been around for more than 2,000 years. Computer languages don’t usually last 20 maybe?

Yes there are lots of IT jobs, apparently, but the reality is there are few jobs for heads down coders and the like. Corporations (non-software companies I am refering to) have most of the positions. They want "business savvy" people who know the business first, then know enough about IT to write requirements and hand off their documents to an outsourcer, global sourcer, or however you want to put it. Companies are also looking for people with specific knowledge in things like "business intelligence," which are quasi-IT topics requiring much more knowledge of the business and vendor tooling (and buzz, don’t forget the buzz) than any advanced CS knowledge. 

Even with the weak dollar, you know there is still the issue of labor cost. There are jobs that need to be "site specific", such as network admins and hardware guys (where are the gals?). But these aren’t programming jobs, which is what CS degrees essentially teach for.

Then there’s the work itself, if you can get it. Computer programming, as is well known, is a young Asian or white male preserve. The percentage of women doing technical work for living has actually been dropping over the past decade. No answers from anywhere yet on reversing this, and there is actually little interest in the rank and file of the field to do so. Asians are of course very well represented in the ranks, but Hispanics and African Americans?? It’s tough for women to fit in well in the field, so it is more attractive to just do something else. It’s not just the perception of having to sit in a cube all day (which is what 90% of corporate employees do when not in meetings anyway).

Even if American students were to rise up, and start taking CS classes again, who is going to teach them? Obviously, as is the case for math and hard science teachers, you can make more money by not teaching. People who decide to teach by considered choice are of by necessity more alturistic and idealistic than others. Programming is not a field that one associates with altruism but rationalism and economic libertarianism. A lot of people are doing it for the money. Not as much as being in management, but people with certain skillsets made a rational choice to earn what they could.