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Making Computer Science Relevant

As computer science educators, we see the need for computer science education. There is an element of self-interest, but we believe computer science knowledge and skills are among the most essential ingredients of a modern education.

It is frustrating, therefore, when legislators, school administrators, and the public do not "see the light" and embrace computer science as a valuable 21st century skill. Curriculum reflects our values and it is obvious that our societal values have not changed to include computer science knowledge as compulsory and not elective (along with other subjects we don't think are worthy of mandating, such as art and music.)

No matter how one feels about it, the accountability movement controls educational policy in the U.S. And within the system we have, math and English are important, science is less important, and nothing else is important. If we want to be important, we can agitate for a change in priority or we can hitch our star to things that are already considered important.

I have a theory that taught correctly, computer science could improve math scores. Programs such as Bootstrap are already using computer science to improve kids' math skills.

What do you think?

Can we work within a framework of math (or English or science) to teach fundamental computer science skills?

Would this enhance other disciplines?

Michelle Hutton
CSTA President


Your assessment is spot on. I would only add the following thought(s):
1) I do believe that CS can improve mathematical reasoning because CS is, at its core, a mathematical science. Because of this,
2) Narrowing our conception of "achievement" in mathematics to scores on rote exams validates what is essentially a misguided educational agenda constructed and promulgated by a collection of politicians who care nothing about the real questions of education, but are more interested in destroying public education. Rather, CS should seek to re-establish a conceptual understanding and appreciation for the whole of mathematics; CS should break the memorize, test, and forget cycle that we see daily in classrooms with the investigate, conjecture, prove and communicate cycle that has been the norm in mathematics.

Of course, none of this will happen. Instead, the US will continue its "essentialist" beliefs that hopelessly shackle students and teachers to what is essentially a 19th century understanding of mathematics and science at our expense. Then, as the world renders its obvious verdict, teachers will be castigated by the press and the right-wing as the reason for the failure of our students to learn and to thrive in a 21st century setting.

I don't think that the term "frustrating" comes close to the mark on this one: perhaps soul-crushing with a mix of rage is apt?


Tom R

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