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Letter in Edutopia

My friend Joe Kmoch emailed me this morning to let me know that my Letter to the Editor had been published in one of my favourite magazines... Edutopia, published by the George Lucas Foundation.

Joe also suggested that I post a copy of the letter for you, so here it is.

IT DOESN'T COMPUTE

I am so glad that Todd Oppenheimer ("Tech Made Easy," October 2005) called attention to the fact that too few high schools teach computer science. When we talk about the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education for students, computer science is often completely ignored despite the fact that computing is now necessary for almost every single transaction and interaction in our society.

As a result, though considerable time and money have been spent on increasing and supporting integration of computing tools across the curriculum, computer science has been left to wither and die in many schools, school districts, and states. The result of this shortsightedness is that we continue to fall farther and farther behind on the indicators of high-level computing ability.

For example, U.S. universities no longer dominate in the prestigious ACM International Programming contest. The long-term effect of this problem is that, though we may excel at training students to use the tools that power our world, we are forgetting to train those who will build them, and everyone knows that it is the tool builders, not the tool users, who guarantee our economic future.

For some reason, there is an enormous misconception that there are no jobs in computing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every labor prognostication we have shows that the gap between the highly skilled workers we produce from our schools and the jobs that need filling in our society is growing, not shrinking. It is also probably safe to say that the great scientific breakthroughs of this century (especially in the combinatorial sciences such as bioinformatics) will depend on computing knowledge. We continue to ignore this fact at our peril.

CHRIS STEPHENSON
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
COMPUTER SCIENCE TEACHERS ASSOCIATION
NEW YORK, NEW YORK

Comments

Great letter. This is a message that we really need to drive home to people in charge of our schools.

I am the CIT, Campus Instructional Technologist at Health Careers High School. I first developed my love of computers through programming.

I read your article in Edutopia today. I hope you were right about the job opportunities for programmers; I have two sons majoring in Computer Science at Texas A&M. My oldest is working on his PhD in Computer Science!

During a recent review of literature related to IT career opportunities in the United States, I was struck by the disparity of opinion on this subject within the same organization (ACM). I think the key phrase is as in your letter "highly skilled workers". The day of the highly paid self-taught worker may be coming to a close - making computer science education (at all levels) even more important.

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