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Observations from New Zealand

My husband, Dr. Mark Guzdial, and I are at the ACSW 2009 conference in Wellington, New Zealand. Dr. Wayne Mapp, the Minister for Research, Science, and Technology opened the conference and announced that the government of New Zealand is going to spend money to upgrade the country’s access to high speed broadband internet. He said that computing knowledge is essential in today’s economy and that the increases in productivity and efficiency that come from innovations in computing will help pull the global economy out of the current recession.

What I found striking is that I can't remember any computing conference in the United States that had a politician of similar stature talk about the importance of computing. Most politicians in the United States don’t know what computing is and don't understand the value of it in our economy. Most of the discussion in the United States on how to get out of the current recession focuses on bailouts, tax cuts, preventing foreclosures, and money for physical infrastructure.

In Mark’s keynote on contextualized computing, he argued that everyone should learn some computing and programming. He also talked about how at Georgia Tech we do make everyone on campus take a course on computing. He talked about former students asking for reference letters to work as a legislative intern and for law school. Perhaps if we do improve the knowledge about computing in the general population, and especially in our politicians, we will generate more support for computing education and research. And, perhaps there will come a time when an American politician will come to a computing conference and talk about the importance of computing.

Barb Ericson
CSTA Director


I wanted to comment on Barb's statement about supporting computing education. During my district's budget study meetings last year one suggestion was made to eliminate the computer competency graduation requirement that has been in place for over 20 years. I was in attendance at the meeting and spoke against the elimination. I left the meeting very frustrated because of the lack of support I received. About a month later, the members of the budget study voted on which programs to cut and computer competency was one of the programs scheduled to be cut.

Last month I attended another meeting about the progress of the budget cuts. During the report it was mentioned that the computer competency graduation requirement was not eliminated because parents of the students in the district had stopped the elimination. I was very happy to hear that the parents had stepped in.

This year I am again attending budget study meeting because the district needs to make deeper cuts to the budget. I am fearful that the computer competency graduation requirement will not survive another round.

Myra Deister
Mathematics/Computer Science Teacher
Sunny Hills High School
Fullerton, CA

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