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ACM Urges Obama To Include CS In K-12 Core 474

Posted by kdawson
from the little-algol-and-less-fortran dept.
jmcbain writes "The ACM issued a set of recommendations supporting Barack Obama's stated goal of making science and mathematics education a national priority at the K-12 level. The ACM is urging the new administration to include Computer Science as an integral part of the nation's education system. 'The new Administration can play an important role in strengthening middle school education, where action can really make a difference, to introduce these students to computer science,' said ACM CEO John White." Is CS such a basic subject, at the level of science or math, that it makes sense to (try to) teach its principles to every elementary school child?
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ACM Urges Obama To Include CS In K-12 Core

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  • Robots! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    When I was in high-school in the late nineties the only computer classes at my school were "keyboarding" and later "Tech Exploration". Keyboarding is an abomination because people who can use a computer well enough don't need the masochistic cover-over-the keyboard training to type accurately at a fast rate.

    The best ultra-rudimentary programming can start with point-and-click commands to a simple robot arm (interface). That will give noobs a good idea of the algorithm and the order of steps required for
  • Yes! (Score:3, Funny)

    by moniker127 (1290002) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:22PM (#26219639)
    In one word: YES!
    Computer science is very very important. You will use it in damn near any field you go into- from operating the register at a burger king - to being a software programmer.
    • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@nOSpaM.barbara-hudson.com> on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:28PM (#26219695) Journal

      They do such a miserable job with the basics already. Colleges have to give classes in remedial reading and math to get their students "up to speed" because the K-12 are doing such a crap job.

      Besides, you know this will degrade into "This is how you create a powerpoint presentation" because that's all the "teacher" knows? Besides, by the time they draw up a curriculum, you *know* it will be obsolete.

      There is no need for computer classes, not when you can't get the basics right. And speaking of BASIC, do we really need another generation ruined by it?

      • by Delwin (599872) * on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:52PM (#26219827)
        It's not talking about teaching programming, or even computer use - but Computer Science. At the basic level very little has changed in Computer Science since Turing. You can spend an entire year just on designing very basic algorithms for very basic things - and not in any current computer language - and teach far more to children about logic than current mathematics does.
        • by Atario (673917) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @01:51AM (#26220449) Homepage

          There's pretty strong evidence [codinghorror.com] that the ability to program is more or less in you or not, and that training won't change that. If we want to start teaching programming to as many people as possible, we should begin with a simple screening test (as in the link) and exempt anyone who doesn't pass. To do otherwise will no doubt result in massively widespread, deep-seated hatred/disdain for programming (and maybe programmers).

          • by John Whitley (6067) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @03:32AM (#26220905) Homepage

            From the abstract of the referenced paper:

            All teachers of programming find that their results display a 'double hump'.

            "pretty strong evidence" my ass. First, any claim that this test identifies "innate" ability is nonsense. There's no part of the associated studies which even approaches a "nature" vs "nurture" type result. First clue of no real results: ZERO application of statistical analysis in the paper. This submission would be a big laugh to any serious social sciences forum. A population split is claimed, and a proposed test to identify that split is presented. No claim as to why that split exists is made. (If it exists! The paper far from proves that.)

            For example, that data (if correctly gathered, is statistically meaningful, etc.) might simply reference the quality of the mathematics education the students received well prior to taking this CS class. If that were the case, it'd be VERY STRONG reinforcement for the ACM's case. Likewise, such a test might then indicate required remediation for students rather than kicking them out of CS entirely.

            E.g. did the students have to really learn long division in school? That's their first exposure to a rigorous CS-style algorithm. How was the student's algebra education? That's the introduction to the abstraction of variables. The computer scientist who doesn't deeply grok abstraction gets precisely nowhere. The list goes on. These are core skills which allow a student to find success in CS work. These can be likened to the "literacy" requirements to comprehend Computer Science topics... are we simply producing "illiterate" students? We don't yet know, and this work, while stimulating, doesn't provide any answers.

      • It depends on what area of the country you're talking about. If you think that all public schools teach the same things, then clearly your perception of American education is not correct.

        Many schools don't have such courses, so colleges wind up picking up the slack where they leave off. Therefore, only the kids who are exposed to schools and districts where any kind of computer courses are offerred really benefit.

        Of course, if there's no interest in a community, then why should a district impose such a le

      • by 644bd346996 (1012333) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:59PM (#26219865)

        The core computer science topics won't be obsolete anytime soon - consider that many places still teach the basics using Lisp, a language that's been around since 1958. Computer architectures haven't changed much either. Sure, instruction sets have evolved, but we're still using von Neumann archtectures. None of the paradigms used to program them is ever really obsoleted.

      • by Eli Gottlieb (917758) <eligottlieb@gBAL ... com minus author> on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @12:24AM (#26220003) Homepage Journal

        I see your point, but teaching students basic set theory, first-order predicate calculus, and mathematical proofs under the banner of "computer science" wouldn't hurt.

        And yes, these are in fact the first three topics covered in the core computer science course at my university. And the professor came in on the first day of lecture and told us, "The first half of this class will be the things your high school failed to teach you.".

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tirerim (1108567)
          Those are things that would be very useful to teach, for many applications, but I'm not sure that they need to be taught under the umbrella of C.S. Along with some stuff on algorithms, they'd all be fine in a math class; at that point, the students who want to learn programming shouldn't have much difficulty with it, whether they do it on their own or in college. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I learned to program in high school. But while my school wasn't wealthy (we were using Apple IIe's in the late 90s
        • Absolutely not! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by bussdriver (620565) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @02:27AM (#26220627)

          NO!!! I like the ACM, but this is totally WRONG.

          Rant 1:
          Bring MATH up to par with other nations. Its acceptable for me to say "I can't do math" but I dare not admit "I can't read" or "I can't do english." Its cultural as well as systematic.

          The US students have mental blocks on math (NEVER mention math,) they don't understand the use of experimentation, and have been shuffling paperwork and jumping thru tutorials for so long they are shocked when I get my hands on them... Their demands for the old-school methods have resulted in the degradation of other courses over the long term (a few like myself hold out against the trend - its not just the natural understanding gap increasing between instructor and student that makes me see a downward trend.)

          I've seen inner city schools doing things ONLINE that create disadvantages for poor students without internet or computer access. If you really want to help, get kids access to a safe internet and a computer that facilitates exploration and experimentation.

          Philosophy of Science would be widely useful. Actually, Critical Thinking -- one could fit in Science, Logic, and even some Ethics into that class.

          Rant 2:
          The computer is just a tool for teaching things that is completely misunderstood and under utilized while at the same time being thoughtlessly applied to education without any supporting evidence for its educational benefits!

          The only real work on computers for actual learning that I've seen was done in the 80s and early 90s with LOGO, MECC, and Carmen Sandiego. These all tried alternative methods to use the computer as a tool to teach or build critical thinking skills... NOT teach CS. (Yes, LOGO did do everything.) More RESEARCH based tools should be encouraged like the brain-research that led to EyeQ or Nintendo's Brain Age. Speed reading would seriously change lives.

          I've seen girls learn to type fast on their cell phones. They don't need a cell phone typing course to do that. They shouldn't be required to WASTE time learning typing on a computer when they will eventually figure that out. This is a great example of how misused computers in schools are (not to mention the waste of typing-only computer labs when 100 year old typewriters would suffice.)

          Rant 3:
          Bigger areas are being ignored. they are more important.

          Creativity is a whole other area sorely lacking; my mother is an art teacher and the stories she tells sound like we are entering an age of mindless consumer drones. Studies have always shown that right-brained classes like art resulted in better scores in the left-brained classes... Until they wreck these courses (and for 8 years boy they have been trying) those courses will continue exist. I would HATE to see right-brained courses be replaced with more left-brained courses.
          BTW: Einstein played an instrument.

          Promotion of curiosity wouldn't hurt either... Some form of Omnibus course wouldn't be a bad idea; especially, if it helped find interests that could be leveraged in less interesting courses.

          How about Business? Accounting? People can't manage their own credit cards and its pathetic. Nobody learns how to do taxes or run a business... and the LAW or even the constitution-- forget it...

          Rant 4:
          Students are institutionalized to memorize and do tutorials. Programming problems without example code is a huge break from the mundane norm of the current educational system; however, instead of jolting students with something new to make up for a degraded system (not that the US system was that much better in the past) why don't we improve the existing subjects to be more engaging? I managed to ace 3 years of spanish without learning any spanish! It was the perfect example of the path of the current system.
          I DO think learning C++ should count as a foreign language. Would be a better use of time for most students; for all the reasons the ACM states. (If one must learn a language thinking it helps your english then why not learn latin then?)

          Rant 5:
          Obam

          • Re:Absolutely not! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Thiez (1281866) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @07:49AM (#26222155)

            > I've seen girls learn to type fast on their cell phones. They don't need a cell phone typing course to do that. They shouldn't be required to WASTE time learning typing on a computer when they will eventually figure that out. This is a great example of how misused computers in schools are (not to mention the waste of typing-only computer labs when 100 year old typewriters would suffice.)

            My father, who has been working with computers for over 20 years, 'figured out' how to type. He still types with two fingers. I was taught typing at school, use ten fingers and don't have to look at my keyboard (which is a great advantage since I tought myself dvorak on a qwerty keyboard some time ago...*) and I am way faster than he is. Because he can type 'fast enough' there isn't much motivation to learn how to type properly, however had someone taught him to touch type waaaaay back he would easily be twice as fast.

            Cell phones are different because the most obvious way to type is also the 'correct' way to do it. Not so much for keyboards, where 'hunt and peck' is the technique most people use when first confronted with a keyboard. I wholeheartedly support 'forcing' touch-typing on those poor students. They'll thank me later.

            * Yes I tought myself how to type dvorak but this was AFTER I learned to touch-type qwerty, and knowing the advantages I chose to learn how to type correctly.

      • by Londovir (705740) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @01:35AM (#26220379)

        I agree - up to a point. I don't agree that schools are all doing a miserable job. You know the phrase "garbage in, garbage out"? It really does apply to K-12 students.

        I've taught 10th-12th grade for 4 years now at an inner-city style school (59% minority rate, 78% free/reduced lunch), over a variety of Math/CS subjects, including Precalculus, AP Calculus, Honors Physics, and AP Computer Science. You'd think I would have the top of the stack, the elite students, if you will. If I do, it demonstrates the problem with some U.S. Science & Math students in the 21st century: the students at some schools (at least mine) have no desire to put in the effort required to master a difficult subject.

        Students are looking for classes they can pad their schedule with that look good on college transcripts, but which require very little work. If it's an AP class, they want the AP teacher that gives out extra credit like candy, assigns 3-5 problems a night for homework, and gives "open book" tests.

        I came from a tougher school of thought, so in return I expect work from my students; I assign 1-2 hours worth of work every night, every test is "closed book", every quiz is unannounced, and there's no such thing as extra credit. You should hear the crying of unfairness and cruelty. (The funny thing is for the 4 years I've been at my school, my AP class has had the highest passing rate of all AP courses taught at our school.)

        My AP Comp. Sci. course, for 3 years in a row, was filled with ambitious MySpace, Facebook, or other "texters" who thought a CS course was going to be something where we sat around all day and wrote the next "How L33T are you?" quiz. Some thought we'd be writing the next Line Rider game the 1st class. When I tried to get them to understand OOP, or to think of what a Model & View architecture really meant, it blew their minds. A simple assignment (almost pointless, but done anyway to try to get something out of them) of picking an everyday real life object and writing down all of the things it's made of and things it can do, netted me about 20 papers all describing a pencil as being made of lead, eraser, and plastic, which can write and erase. Deep stuff.

        You should have seen how well they handled writing a simple "Guess a number" game. Basic IF structures (logic) completely eluded them.

        It's not their math skills that was hurting them (although you'd be scared to see how many AP Calculus students I routinely teach who can't grasp working with reciprocals or fractions in general work) - it was their inability or lack of desire to employ critical thinking skills. If it wasn't something that could be put on the back of an index card (to cram the night before) or typed into their cell phones (to cheat from the day of the test), they wouldn't do it.

        We have to get past that laziness, that lack of work/study ethic, in K-12 education before we tack on anything else. CS, done well, cannot be learned in any meaningful fashion if there's no desire to use reasoning, deductive logic, or problem solving skills.

        I pray it's not this bad at other K-12 institutions around the country, but I'm fearful that it's the same everywhere. It's the chief reason I'm pressing onward with my MA or MS to get my foot into the door of college teaching. I know you still get your share of lazy students there as well, but they might just want to work hard and pay attention, and I won't feel like I'm just spinning my wheels every day I try to teach another young mind. And I'm fully aware that I'm not helping the problem, if I'm even able to, by "bailing" on the K-12 arena, but there comes a point when your work begins to feel like an ice-cream salesman standing in Fairbanks, Alaska.....you just have to move your stand to somewhere you can get something done.

        P.S. This year the county canceled my AP Comp. Sci. class and rolled my BC Calculus course into my AP Calculus course as an "independent study". Due to budget cuts, having 12 or less students means the class gets folded. So much for even the wannabe texters...

        • by FrankieBaby1986 (1035596) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @02:27AM (#26220625)

          1-2 hours worth of work every night, every test is "closed book", every quiz is unannounced, and there's no such thing as extra credit. You should hear the crying of unfairness and cruelty. (The funny thing is for the 4 years I've been at my school, my AP class has had the highest passing rate of all AP courses taught at our school.)

          Now this is why you are precisely the kind of teacher I dislike the most. The one who thinks their class is the only one that matters.

          Do you honestly think that after being in school from 8am to 3pm (7 hours) students should be expected to study an additional 6-12 hours? (1-2 hours per subject). This is ridiculous, as no person, let alone child has that kind of attention span or time (12-19 hours).

          It is my humble opinion that the majority of 'textbook' learning should be done at school, and afterwards, the students need time to learn to play, interact, and learn responsibilities besides that of doing their homework.

          I have also felt that many students would benefit from having more time focused on them, and so small group learning should be the norm, not 25-40 students in a classroom for a lecture. It is not the amount of time spent learning or the hours of homework spent, but the quality and efficiency that matters. We need to increase the number of teachers per student-perhaps 1 student per 6 kids. This would have to be accomplished likely by trained volunteers or less-qualified Teacher Assistants and one teacher.

          However, I do strongly agree that there has been a softening in standards across the board, and that students expect to be coddled more. But I do think that the expectations on students are higher. There is simply much more to have to learn and know on a daily basis.

          It is no longer the three R's (readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmatic) Now we have Social Studies, Health, Computer Science, Cooking, English, Spanish, Gym class, and on top of that students are expected to perform 50 hours of community service a year and after school activities and boy/girlscouts and have a part-time job when they reach 15 or 16.

          What ever happened to bein' a kid?
          Education is going to need to be revamped in a big way.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Yuuki Dasu (1416345)

            Do you honestly think that after being in school from 8am to 3pm (7 hours) students should be expected to study an additional 6-12 hours? (1-2 hours per subject). This is ridiculous, as no person, let alone child has that kind of attention span or time (12-19 hours).

            It is my humble opinion that the majority of 'textbook' learning should be done at school, and afterwards, the students need time to learn to play, interact, and learn responsibilities besides that of doing their homework.

            I'm a high school teacher in a country where homework amounts like the GP's are commonplace - Japan. My students are often at school 8am-5pm. They then study more at home, several hours a day. Most go to cram school 1-2 times a week.

            They aren't much better off academically for it, on the whole, I'll say. They're known to sleep through classes because they were up too late the night before studying. They can't concentrate that hard that long. It's just not possible.

            On top of that, it takes a huge toll

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mdarksbane (587589)

          I'm with you on everything except for the 1-2 hours of homework a night.

          Any student who actually does care is taking 6-7 courses in a year. If everyone follows your philosophy they're staring down 6-12 hours of homework after completing a 7 hour day that includes another .5 to 1 hour commuting. So your kids are down to 4 hours of sleep assuming that they don't bother eating or showering.

          I don't buy any of the crap other people are saying about "letting kids be kids," but you do need to assign something that

    • Re:Yes! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by liquidpele (663430) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:54PM (#26219839) Journal
      I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not, but CS is not something everyone needs to learn. In fact, it's *very* difficult for many to grasp. Other reasons it's a bad idea

      1) They won't hire teachers for it, they'll just get one of the available teachers to teach it, so you'll have the basketball coach teaching CS out of a book.
      2) Choice of language matters, let the flame wars begin.
      3) People graduating with the vocational degree instead of college prep don't need it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nschubach (922175)

        I think it's hard to grasp because "teachers" (books, etc.) all start at too high of a level. If you started kids out on the basics of binary, how that relates to digits and go from there, you might actually make some inroads to CS in lower education. I never really "got" programming until I sat down with an assembler book out of curiosity. The first few sections talked about why and how it all works. I had a general idea before, but it was all kind of hazy from previous books that would dare not touch

    • Re:Yes! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Garridan (597129) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:56PM (#26219849)

      Hey man, just 'cause most CS majors end up working a register at burger king, a CS degree isn't a prerequisite to the job.

    • Re:Yes! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mysidia (191772) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @12:07AM (#26219915)

      I'l agree that human technology is fundamental, and courses that teach how to operate technology should be required, to the extent they encourage interest, students seeking to learn more, and validate a base level of knowledge..

      There are some things that vaguely fall under the umberlla of CS that are very important to students (like computer literacy, an understanding of basic computer operation, and computer security, viruses, etc; how to use a GUI, how to use a CLI).

      Use of computers is not as much a science lesson as it is a social and engineering lesson. To understand, how humans have designed computers to work, how various tasks can be accomplished, what are the social conventions of using them, i.e. NOT POSTING ON AN INTERNET FORUM IN ALL CAPS.

      Computer science is not so basic. CS is the study of computation, algorithms, and information itself, the actual implementation is a very small part. CS is applied mathematics, which is too advanced for most K-12 students.

      Even basic topics in CS, like the ability to implement Warshall's algorithm in C, or explain when an A* search is a good idea should not be mandatory for K-12 students: these topics would be introduced to those topics if they pursue CS-related background in college.

      Some basic programming knowledge (i.e. scripting) would be appropriate, but please do not confuse such basic scripting with computer science.

      Such classes should be titled "scripting class" or "computer literacy class", not CS.

      Computer science has about as much to do with computers as astronomy does with telescopes. -- Edsger Dijkstra

    • by tsa (15680)

      Nonsense. Monkey see, monkey do is enough for most people.

  • by aztektum (170569) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:23PM (#26219643)

    I'd rather see something more abstract like symbolic logic classes rather than programming classes.

    • by KanshuShintai (694567) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:45PM (#26219795) Homepage

      Teaching computer science in middle school and high school is probably no more appropriate than teaching mechanical engineering at those levels. What schools really need to be teaching are maths outside of the calculus track--logic, as you said, along with combinatorics, graph theory, geometry, set theory, and a number of other things that are important as foundations to the sciences (including computer science) and engineering disciplines in general. Computer science topics could serve as examples of applications of those mathematical foundations, just as physics is used as an example in calculus courses.

      • by Delwin (599872) * on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:57PM (#26219855)
        I mostly agree but I think Algorithms has a place in there too. Data Structures would help as well - teaching children even just the Stack and Queue would be simple enough and would open many children's eyes to logical structures in the world around them. The ability to take a process apart and define it - even in English - is something that any child should be able to do. It's really the reverse of the Word Problem.
        • I mostly agree but I think Algorithms has a place in there too. Data Structures would help as well

          Niklaus Wirth ... is that you?

        • The problem is that it takes an entire elective semester just to get the most basic syntax into their skulls in an average class. And good look keeping the talented one's in line while you do that, they'll be hacking out their assignments in the first 10-15 minutes of class and playing games installed to the network drives for the rest of class. At least that's how it worked at my school.
          • CS != programming (Score:3, Interesting)

            by zenyu (248067)

            You don't teach 1st graders Pascal, you teach them about the difference between a queue and stack. Then you teach them different sorting algorithm which they execute with their hands on wood blocks. And then in later grades you teach them logic and show them how a CPU could do multiplication like they have been taught and how it really does multiplication, then you ask them to rewrite the real algorithm for base-10 and award an Android phone to the kid whose multiplication speed has improved the largest per

      • by fermion (181285) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @02:06AM (#26220513) Homepage Journal
        As a person who was taught mechanical drawing and computer science at the middle and high school level I must disagree. And I was taught computer science, not just programming. By the time I left high school I learned how to write an algorithm, troubleshoot, optimize, and none of it in pascal. Basic in middle school, fortran, assembly, and C in high school, though the C I did at home with my own compiler. I had CS college hours before I entered college. I know a number of kids who did the same, even now. They have jobs to help pay for college, not just in the campus post office or bookstore serving customers and getting yelled at by insecure bosses.

        But I do understand what you mean, and as a science person I agree, at least in part. Math is just one of the many languages we use to describe the world. So, like other language classes, it is important to use it to describe the world, just like one would use in a english, french, spanish, or latin class. The same goes for computers. It is just one of many ways we model the world.

        The issue comes in if the student does not have an understanding of these concepts. It is all well and good for me to talk about going to the store to buy stuff, or creating linear equation using patterns of blocks, or non linear equation using the multiplication tables. These things are taught all though grade school. But how am I going to use the incline plane for a trigonometric function is the student was not given the experience in science lab to create and interpret the models. I don't have time in math class, and not all the students are going to have the experience outside of the classroom.

        Likewise, it would be very difficult for me to take a class in and have them make graphs on graphviz(for instance, who knows who in the class) if they never had a class to teach them about computers. I would spend all my time introducing them to the computer, and trying to keep them off facebook, because computer time is too valuable to some of them to waste it on lessons. If they do not have a class to play on the computer, like if they do not have a class to play science, then they will not do it maths class.

        Which applies to logic as well. There are many good resources for logic. Web pages that create truth table, karnaugh maps, allow you to draw circuits and test them. It would be wonderful to have a month to teach logic using these techniques, maybe even build the circuit to show how a story can be rendered with 74xx or GAL or similar technology. But it the kids never played with such tech in science class, never was trained to use the computer as a tool, not a toy, such effort would be fruitless. The novelty of the computer would overwhelm the topic to be taught.

        From my experience, things must be taught separately, in chunks. Sure at the college level you can assume that the kid will learn the tech on their own time, and if not, who cares. The school has the money, it won't be refunded, and the prof still has the tenure track. But in secondary education, the drop rate matters a lot, especially since the realistic number is about 50%. So we can't always assume that tech will be learned, or that tech won't be a distraction. I would argue any kid that does not type by 9th grade, does not have a CS course by 12th grade, and has never had drafting is no more educated than a kid who never had visual art or was never forced to read that 18th century novel crap. It may not be for everyone, and lots of people just want in direct form, not that boring project based learning, but everyone should have it to be educated.

    • Dump CS from schools. Teach MATH!. Math drives CS. If you can not even figure out how to do A^2 + B^2 = C^2, how will you understand computers.

  • Far too few new college students (I ran a college help desk so I interviewed and hired a lot of them) understand the basic procedural operation of computer programs. The solution is to start young with simple environments (think LOGO) that limit complexity, but they are not "canned" in the sense that they walk the student through every problem.

    And today, I'd say that even typing & text should not be requirements. Use graphic elements to build programs from simple blocks, laying out the high-level proble

    • Exactly. Most people using computers today have a deeply flawed conceptual model of what's going on under the hood, and are thus helpless to solve even the most basic problems that extend beyond their experience. Even a simple graphical programming tool like Alice can go a long way toward helping somebody understand what a program really is, and Alice has been proven to work for average middle school students.

    • The teachers in High School and before are generally unequipped to teach math, much less CS.

      Let the kids concentrate on more basic subjects in their school hours. Subjects the teachers might not ruin for the kids.

      Teach them to use computers in their other classes course (e.g. Word Processing in English etc).

      With the resources available on the net the kids that want to dive into computers will do better without their classmates and teachers disinterest to slow them down.

      Weather that's from a CS pers

    • by xenocide2 (231786)

      The problem, as always, is training. Computers and math are anathema to elementary ed majors. (If you disagree, please explain to me why elementary education teachers [k-state.edu] can get away with just College Algebra and "Introduction to Contemporary Mathematics," a course likely dominated by one or two math adverse majors)

      Here's what happened when I was a young student: 5 minutes lining up as a class, quietly walking to the lab. 5 minutes getting everyone into computers and putting floppy disks in Apple IIs. 5 minute

  • It's about time someone got the K-12 world to figure out that teaching computers means a little more than teaching kids to use office suites and educational games.

    • Re:About time! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768@@@comcast...net> on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @12:06AM (#26219899) Journal

      Except for the bulk of students (easily 99% of them) it IS office suits. And they dont even do that well.

      Computer Science is NOT something that should be taught any sooner than 9th grade IMHO. And certainly should not be a general ed requirement. It is not a general skill most people need and certainly should not be thought of as that way. I know this is slashdot so people are going to disagree with that, but the honest truth is its hard enough now to get kids to learn real life skills, teaching them something from a field most dont even have a inkling of want to be in and those who do will already know more than any teacher will be able to teach them is just another subject that waters down basic education.

  • IT industry dejavu (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zymano (581466) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:29PM (#26219705)

    "To meet the nation's educational and professional needs in the face of insufficient numbers of undergraduates majoring in computer science"

    LOL.

    It's called $$$. Keep trying H1b visas. Typical of corporates who don't want to pay and want to too see lots of cheap labor. More CS workers = lots of competition for jobs.

    You saw how IT industry turned out.

  • I definitely think stuff like Turing machines and abstract computer science should be thought at the middle school level as part of science courses. In fact I recently gave a presentation to a bunch of undergraduate MATHEMATICS students and not a single one know who Alan Turing even was.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Almahtar (991773)
      In junior high many kids think algebra and geometry are irrelevant to life, and things they'll never use. There's no way they'd see Turing machines, state machines, regular expressions, etc as remotely relevant. They wouldn't be motivated enough to really tackle it, even if they are plenty capable mentally.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:34PM (#26219739) Homepage

    Math teaching should indeed include programming knowledge. It doesn't have to be intensive knowledge but it should be enough to teach logic flow and problem solving methods and procedures. We all learned PEMDAS in algebra class, but there is more that should be included as well. Not only comparative operators like greater-than, less-than and equals, but the other ones we use in programming like not-equals, greater-than-or-equals and the like. Binary math with AND, OR and XOR should be enforced in many areas as well.

    These types of mental skills are good for math and science, of course, but these sorts of mental processing skills are very useful in day-to-day life in thinking and reasoning. Thinking and reasoning skills should be taught throughout K-12. Learning how to learn effectively is THE absolute key to a successful academic career. Right now, emphasis is on passing tests. That is just the wrong way to do it. Teaching how to learn and think will resolve the student success problems very naturally.

    Some people will ALWAYS lack the capacity to learn and think effectively. That is unfortunate. But the whole of our nation's youth asset should not be compromised because a few will be left behind. "No Child Left Behind" sounds good... especially on a battle field. But it inhibits the potential growth for a massive amount of students. Talented and Gifted programs are all good, but the average student is far more capable than the regular school system is geared for.

  • Bah (Score:4, Funny)

    by memristance (1285036) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:34PM (#26219741)
    Why bother? Computer Science is just applied Mathematics [xkcd.com]...
  • Some schools have Lego Mindstorms, which have a primitive programming system. I mean, it's not hat hard to teach stuff like conditionals, loops, object, etc. The idea of anything taught at this level is to familiarize the student for higher-level work. We do spend 4 years teaching algebra, after all.
    • by Almahtar (991773)
      Four years teaching algebra? In my school system they taught pre algebra in 7th grade (which could be considered part of algebra), algebra in 8th grade, and after that it was geometry, trig, pre-calc, and calc. That means 1 (2 if you count pre-alg) year of algebra.
      And I grew up in Idaho, for heaven's sake. We're not the math capital of the world by any means.
  • by toppavak (943659) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:34PM (#26219749)
    I guess there's two ways to slice it: software development versus algorithms. I think it would be very easy (and in fact quite beneficial) for algorithm development to be integrated into existing math and science classes. Something like VPython could be a tremendous aid in helping physics students visualize vectors and how mechanics and EM problems "look". While the ability to compute (not only does it help you solve the problem, it helps you understand the nature of the problem as well!) is just as critical as the underlying problems it helps you solve (core sciences, math, etc), skills that are more commonly thought of as "software engineering" definitely belong in specialty classes and electives.
  • I say no. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chaossplintered (1164745) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:35PM (#26219757)

    I say no, and here's why: A lot of C.S. never made any sense to me, until I had a good grasp of language and mathematics. Knowing the state of American education, I'm guessing that means that the majority of kids will not be able to handle C.S. as a required course until they're well in to middle school, and most likely, a lot will not understand it until they're in high school.

    (And yes, I know some people on Slashdot started coding when they were twelve. You're the exception to the rule.)

    By that time, Computer Science is usually available as an elective, which is where I think it should be at. Making computer science an "integral"* part of American education seems like a nice idea. However, I doubt the practical application will yield anything useful, as most students will treat it as "just another subject", they have to grind through. The cynic in me says, "The majority of schools already fuck up Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology, and Psychics already, why should we give them another area to piss on?"

    On the other hand, I'm all for expanding computer science as an elective.

    *Does anyone know what they mean by "integral"? Every time I've heard the word "integral" in education, it usually translates in to "Required". If it's not required, I'm much more for the idea.

    • by memristance (1285036) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:43PM (#26219781)

      *Does anyone know what they mean by "integral"? Every time I've heard the word "integral" in education, it usually translates in to "Required".

      Calculus must have confused you to no end.

    • Re:I say no. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Delwin (599872) * on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @12:04AM (#26219889)

      Three year old children learn about Queues. It's called 'waiting in line'. They also lean about Resource Sharing (you did learn to share right?) and Binary Logic (True is not False).

      There's no reason that can't be expanded upon to form the concept of Proof (Children finally getting answers to 'why?') and even Algorithms (You get green by mixing blue and yellow).

      It's all there already - it just needs to be pointed out and used properly.

  • Dear ACM, STOP. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rinisari (521266) * on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:38PM (#26219773) Homepage Journal

    Dear ACM and Computer Science Teachers Association, both of which I am a professional member,

    STOP.

    Please.

    I know constitutional matters fairly well. I've got degrees in computer science and K-12 education. I see things from a younger yet informed, educated standpoint (I am in the first generation to be tested under the PA tests which satisfy No Child Left Behind).

    Stop campaigning the federal government for educational things. The federal government has NOT been granted the right to deal with education in any way. Its current educational meddling in state-run schools should serve as evidence of this, and should be unconstitutional. Continued federal campaigning will only increase the amount of influence the federal government thinks it has and tries to have on public schools, an influence which is detrimental to the individual needs of students and the societal needs of their communities.

    Instead, my dear ACM, please spend your time and money asking state departments of education, which move far, far quicker than the federal department of education, to include CS in curriculum. The federal department of education moves as a brontosaurus would, but the state department of education moves like a triceratops--still slow, but certainly quicker and more aware of its surroundings than a brontosaurus would be.

    More effectively would be a grassroots campaign among ACM members to try to convince local school districts that CS needs to be included more in curriculum, especially in city and suburban districts where programming jobs are more available.

    Asking the federal government to intervene is asking for something which will simply worsen the situation, and something which cannot be undone.

    • Re:Dear ACM, STOP. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cdw38 (1001587) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @12:01AM (#26219877)
      Thank you, thank you, thank you for tossing some common sense on this. The Department of Education is not only unconstitutional (and thus, illegal), it DOESN'T WORK. Schools should be accountable to local communities and parents, NOT federal government bureaucrats. Even better than state governments, the ACM should be petitioning city and county Boards of Education to possibly include a greater emphasis on computer science in K-12 education.
      • by dcollins (135727)
        "The Department of Education is not only unconstitutional (and thus, illegal), it DOESN'T WORK..."

        My impression of the parent:

        <fingers-in-ears> La la la la la I can't hear you! </fingers-in-ears>

    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      Actually the fact that individual state governments handle public school is the root of the problem. No other civilized country runs its public school system by provincial governments (what States truly are -- if you disagree, I wish you good luck trying to reinstate slavery), and this is why US has the worst public school system among all developed countries.

      • Re:Dear ACM, STOP. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Progoth (98669) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @12:39AM (#26220077) Homepage

        You do realize that many of our states are the size of and have the population of most other countries?

        You do realize how terrible the Federal government is here?

        I'm guessing no, since you don't understand our system of federalism or that we're a constitutional republic or how our Constitution (with amendments) prevents states from reinstating slavery while still severely limiting the Feds' powers.

        (/me looks up poster-with-very-low-ID's information)

        Nope, you're a Russian in California. You have no idea how our (currently very broken) system of federal government is supposed to work, or how to get it back to a working state.

  • Is CS such a basic subject, at the level of science or math, that it makes sense to (try to) teach its principles to every elementary school child?

    Yes, inasmuch as understanding the basics of algorithmics and computing provides foundation knowledge that impacts virtually all modern technology. Just as basic science classes serve to provide valuable insights into how the world and various technologies work, so can appropriately structured CS education.

    We already teach basic algorithms in math classes, starting with long division. A lot of people (even teachers) have the gross misconception that the utility of long division is solely the result of div

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pwinkeler (413102)

      And here we go again: confusing math with arithmetic. Long division is basic arithmetic, not math. Math involves manipulating concepts, a far broader concept than just numbers.

      That said I am interested in introducing a Computer Science curriculum starting in middle school but only insofar as it clearly calls out the notion of an algorithm. Way too much of today's middle and high school education allows kids to get away with doing well by simply being good at rote memorization: contrasting this with the n

  • by kudokatz (1110689) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @11:46PM (#26219797)

    I think "computer literacy" is more in order. In fact, just the other day I helped yet another person who didn't understand that documents written with a specific program didn't live exclusively inside that program. Understanding fundamentals like this are necessary to interact in a competent manner with computers, which are becoming a necessary tool for more and more fields.

    Without these basics, "Computer Science" is somewhat hopeless; I would rather have these basics be required. One thing that needs to be improved is the ability for people inclined towards computer science ideas to be exposed to advanced concepts . . . but it should not be compulsory. I am a CS major, but had my first programming class my 2nd semester and thought I was really computer-savvy specifically because I knew that files were independent of the program that created them. However, I was interested in programming for a while before that and just never had the opportunity to explore it.

  • Computer Science infers freedom of experimentation and exploration. I cannot foresee the US school system giving its students freedom in this regard. Chemistry students were certainly hit hard after 9/11, and the free use of computers to actually learn (as opposed to being spoon fed the government mantra) will be a great dogma for political slogans, but nothing more.

  • CS? (Score:3, Funny)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @12:00AM (#26219873) Homepage
    Counter-strike?
  • I'm not sure how useful it is to have the federal government mandating this. But in general, yes, I think it would be useful to teach CS at a K-12 level.

    The big thing CS teaches you that most people don't 'get' is:

    if (and only if) A then B

    That seems like such a simple thing to a programmer (or certain other professions), but most people don't grasp this, and it's a key to any intelligent decision making. We don't really teach logic in school any more except as a math byproduct, so the program

  • While I wouldn't be against adding a bit more CS into education (especially at the upper levels, though voluntary stuff), there's enough wrong with the current educational system that the focus should be on fixing it rather than adding to it (excepting where "fixing" involves "adding", such as bringing certain classes up to modern times).

    When we get to a point where we can have the ability to dream about CS in HS, the focus should be less on "let's type letters in a computer!" and more on things like logic

  • The move to teach CS to kids in a real way will make it so that at least every high school educated person would be able to understand computing on some low level. Since computers will never stop being ubiquities in the daily lives of so many people from now on it only makes sense that we as a civilization choose to make sure most of the people in the world can understand computing.

    With the amount of work now done on computers or daily life interaction with business, entertainment, and law it only makes sen

  • Bad idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by macraig (621737) <.mark.a.craig. .at. .gmail.com.> on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @12:41AM (#26220087)

    The first twelve grades should be devoted to communication skills, history, natural sciences, and the like. You know, the real basics in which our high school grads are already demonstrably deficient. How exactly will mandating CS at these grades do anything to produce more functional citizens? We might get a wonderful crop of idiot savants, but is that what we really need? If a given student has a distinct attraction to CS, they will naturally pursue it outside of the classroom.

    Even the ACM counts as a "special interest group" that has "lobbyists", and here they are trying to push their own agenda to the exclusion of more important things.

  • by cellocgw (617879) <cellocgw@NOSPaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @10:35AM (#26223433) Journal

    Here's a couple radical ideas ~_*
    Keep letting elementary school kids play w/ Logo. Those who are hooked will quickly move all by themselves to other programming languages.
    Expose kids at all levels to things like phun [phunland.com] .
    And most important: ban use of PowerPoint in all schools at all levels. 'nuff said on that one.

    As others have posted, learning to design algorithms is useful; learning any specific programming language is far less so. I'd go so far as to suggest that the rules laid down in Geometry class may be of great use for budding programmers. Geo students are (or at least they are in the Honors levels) taught to write down every step in the proof, along with a justification (theorem, definition, etc) for each step. That's the first lesson in algorithm development.

  • Yeah, Um... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @11:31AM (#26223813) Homepage Journal
    Do READING first. Then we'll talk about CS.
  • by oDDmON oUT (231200) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @01:45PM (#26224963)

    As someone closely associated with post secondary education, who has seen "computer science" curriculum at the community college level devolving into either Microsoft® or Cisco® application classes at the behest of Those-Who-Don't-Know-Better, I am leery of any effort, no matter how well intentioned, to add anything to a system already overburdened, underfunded, and saddled with failed standardized testing mandates.

    The temptation to go from teaching that Copy/Paste is basic and accessible in all operating systems, to "This is a Wizard®, just click here" in order to keep test scores at acceptable levels would be too much for most public school administrators.

    The ACM would do well to formulate a curriculum on its own that generates excitement in students, place it in select schools and get other schools to adopt it after results were shown.

    Anything else smacks of throwing more public dollars at a perceived problem and then having to pick up the pieces later.

A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention, with the possible exceptions of handguns and Tequilla. -- Mitch Ratcliffe

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