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The US Economy Needs More "Cool" Nerds 453

Posted by kdawson
from the we-be-cool dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Steve Lohr writes in the NY Times that the country needs more 'cool' nerds — professionals with hybrid careers that combine computing with other fields like medicine, art, or journalism. Not enough young people are embracing computing, often because they are leery of being branded nerds. Educators and technologists say that two things need to change: the image of computing work, and computer science education in high schools. Today, introductory courses in computer science are too often focused merely on teaching students to use software like word processing and spreadsheet programs, says Janice C. Cuny, a program director at the National Science Foundation adding that the Advanced Placement curriculum concentrates too narrowly on programming. 'We're not showing and teaching kids the magic of computing,' Cuny says. The NSF is working to change this by developing a new introductory high school course in computer science and seeking to overhaul Advanced Placement courses as well. The NSF hopes to train 10,000 high school teachers in the modernized courses by 2015. Knowledge of computer science and computer programming is becoming a necessary skill for many professions, not only science and technology but also increasingly for marketing, advertising, journalism and the creative arts. 'We need to gain an understanding in the population that education in computer science is both extraordinarily important and extraordinarily interesting,' says Alfred Spector, vice president for research and special initiatives at Google. 'The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality.'"
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The US Economy Needs More "Cool" Nerds

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:13PM (#30527112) Journal
    Rather, the burden of change should be placed on the populace (parents especially) and media.

    I'm going to make some statements with absolutely no sort of proof, weight or even statistics behind them. Statements which need no proof because if you've gone through the American educational system, you know that what I am saying is the truth.

    Football (really sports in general) is more important to teenagers and parents than computer science.

    Computer science is far more practical/pragmatic (and really productive for society as a whole) and monetarily rewarding later in life than football.

    This isn't pressure from the kids. Kids don't develop these hierarchies of what's more important than other things on their own. They get this from their peers who in turn get it from their parents, teachers and--most importantly--the media. Football is the entertainment industry. There are a small percentage of high school football players that go on to hold all the wealth. All the wealth is controlled or pushed through a single league--the NFL. Kids don't realize that their chances of playing in the NFL are equivalent to winning the lottery. And they pass up much more applicable things like math in order to be better at sports. This is what's wrong with the picture. Don't blame nerds for not being iconic enough or cool enough or social enough.

    This has slowly turned as shows and parents have realized that the brilliant nerds they graduated with--the ones that spoke Klingon--actually went on to do really cool things with technology. Not only are they really cool but the whole world is trying to throw cash at them in exchange for their services. Compare that to captain of the football team.

    I don't want you to write off sports entirely, a healthy body is necessary to live a long life and moderate exercise is actually good for your intelligence. What I'm asking people to do is when they sit down as a father and spend three hours cheering for their team, they should realize that in order to instill a more pragmatic value in their child (who watches and mimics their every move) they should turn around and spend an equally amount of emphasis on how important math, academics, computer science, etc is to their child.

    That's not happening. Our economy is suffering from irresponsible parents breeding a generation of gamblers. And by and large they lose--there's just not enough money in entertainment to go around to every high school football player. There is, however, more than enough money in technology to go around to every high school hobbyist that got out in the real world and applied their knowledge.

    I'm not a parent but I'd like to ask all the Slashdotters that are parents that have pushed their children in sports and physical abilities to devote more time to that than reading or studying: why do we do this to our kids? And secondly, do you realize you're creating an ecosystem for other people's kids when your kids reinforce the idea that sports are more important than knowledge and they are the path to success?
    • by reginaldo (1412879) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:25PM (#30527296)
      American football where I grew up was a right of passage, and pretty much mandatory. It helped teach me self confidence, teamwork, and the ability to bash my head into things. Mostly the head bashing, though.

      I use that skill almost every day as a computer programmer, and it is an invaluable part of my toolkit. Poorly written business requirements, bash head. Last minute changes, bash head.
      • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:32PM (#30527428)

        I got the same education by listening to heavy metal.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hazydave (96747)

          For me, two years of Judo and five years of Aikido practice. But the software guys don't mess with me, either... there are wrist locks that send regular folks into new and painful places. Imagine if you have carpal tunnel syndrome! And I know how to fall, after bashing my head too hard.

          I don't think, in this age of unprecedented teenage sloth, it's wise or necessary to cut down the value of sports just to raise up the value of the sciences, computer or otherwise. What we need to really address is "fat kid o

      • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:40PM (#30527572) Journal
        And in the UK, we play rugby with similar effect. First thing the US needs to do? Get rid of this fucked up idea that there is any dichotomy between being good at sports and being good academically. Second thing it needs to do is to ditch the idea that because you have an interest or work in a particular field, you have to be some media stereotype of that field.

        Then people can do what the fuck they want without society telling them they fall into some particular clique.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by FooAtWFU (699187)

          And in the UK, we play rugby with similar effect. First thing the US needs to do? Get rid of this fucked up idea that there is any dichotomy between being good at sports and being good academically.

          House Hears Testimony On Football, Head Injuries [npr.org]

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I'm 23 and know a bunch of people who are into football. Football isn't about going outdoors and getting exercise, it's about sitting on a couch, getting drunk, and yelling at the other team and refs for being unfair (no, it isn't that your team sucks). Instead of working on homework, they are practicing intoxication, anger, tribalism, and blaming others for personal failure.

          Worse yet, they have this idea that if they're stubborn enough, they'll get their way, even though they've spent their time watching

        • by Eli Gottlieb (917758) <eligottlieb.gmail@com> on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @05:51PM (#30529624) Homepage Journal

          You don't get it. In the USA, football is Serious Business. People spend hours a day training and practicing, even at the high-school level. This is the underlying reason for the dichotomy: you can't play high-school, college, or professional football without using time for training that you otherwise could have used for studying. So while many people have the talents for both football and academics, it takes someone extra-gifted to get great at both in the time constraints.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by natehoy (1608657)

          It all depends on how far you take "being good". Many football coaches here want to raise a star player, and in order to do so they'll drill the living snot out of the players they have who look good. Your average teenager needs 10-12 hours of sleep a day, has a homework load that runs 2-3 hours minimum after a 7-hour school day. That leaves 4 hours for eating dinner and any other activities. When the coach wants daily 3-hour practices and twice on Saturday and Sunday, something's gotta give. Maybe one

    • Computer science is far more practical/pragmatic (and really productive for society as a whole) and monetarily rewarding later in life than football.

      The mean annual incomes of professionals in the fields of computer science and football might call into question the "monetarily rewarding" part of that statement.

      • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:38PM (#30527544)

        The mean annual incomes of professionals in the fields of computer science and football might call into question the "monetarily rewarding" part of that statement.

        No, they don't, because you're skewing your data. You're looking at the entire comp sci profession and comparing it to those who play football in the NFL--in other words, the general field of one against those who made it to the very top in the other. You need to compare the average per capita income from IT jobs of those who took a computer-related degree against the average per capita income from football of everybody who played varsity football in college. Who wins that contest? Or reverse it--compare NFL players to the likes of Bill Gates, who are the IT field's equivalent of NFL players. Again, who wins that contest?

        • No, they don't, because you're skewing your data. You're looking at the entire comp sci profession and comparing it to those who play football in the NFL

          I didn't say "in the NFL".

          in other words, the general field of one against those who made it to the very top in the other.

          Well, no, I was referring to the general field of each profession.

          Admittedly, one profession may well be harder to get into at all, and it may well be that investing time and effort into computer skills is a lower risk investment than i

      • Computer science is far more practical/pragmatic (and really productive for society as a whole) and monetarily rewarding later in life than football.

        The mean annual incomes of professionals in the fields of computer science and football might call into question the "monetarily rewarding" part of that statement.

        Logic -- You're doing it wrong.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Eli Gottlieb (917758)

      It's a problem of values. Americans, actually less so among the young generation now, tend to be anti-intellectual and revere anyone who can entertain them. What we need to do is remove our culture's obsession (including its sexual obsession) with the entertainment industry, which all too often traces back to the entertainment industry just flagrantly masturbating. How many movies exist about musicians, writers, and actors? How many songs are about music and dance? Too many. How many movies or songs d

      • by tixxit (1107127) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:47PM (#30527736)
        People like to watch things they can relate to. I think most people revere real skill in talent in any field, whether that is singing, math, business, or what-have-you. Einstein is as much a household name as Elvis is. However, your average person cannot go pick up Einstein's special theory of relativity and read it. They can, however, play some of Elvis' music and bop their heads to it. It is a lot easier to (poorly) emulate a football player or a singer then to emulate a mathematician.
      • I know you're just cutting swathes into lesser beings for trolling's sake, but you do have a slight truth in the anti-intellectual angle. However, this comes from the segrigation that schools naturally impose on their students, not from a society imposed choice of moral or value system. Challenge or Honors classes are set aside and rarely "spill" into the rest of the pack for scheduling reasons. I can speak from personal experience and say that this creates an artificial but still very real barrier between
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      OMFG, how dare you hit the nail on the head instead of writing a throwaway line to be frist psot! Actually, I am writing to complain because you have just given away some of the points in my own idiom on how to raise my daughter in a world filled with stupid people hell bent on being "football heros|rock stars|famous actors" instead of what makes us more effective, happy people; learning a useful skill and living a normal life. This goes against the Ralph Cramden ethic of anything to get rich quick, but i

    • That seems a bit red herring to me. Why isn't there a bigger interest in computers? Football, obviously.

      I understand the use of your example, but here's the problem: Football is just entertainment. It's an out of school sport, and the teachers at my old high school (I graduated last year, if anyone was wondering) didn't let the players get any slack; any more for the kids who spent their night watching TV or running around the lake. This was certainly not the norm, but it was a breath of fresh air after mi
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's not just football, of course. There are a lot of misappropriated priorities.

      And parents appear to not care. They would rather feed their kids entertainment to keep them happy (and out of their hair) than to actually take the time, effort, and "pain" to instill the correct priorities and education and whatnot in them. It's easier to give them $3000 in entertainment gifts per year (you know .... ipod, xbox, games, car, etc) than to take the effort to try to influence their priorities.

      And then there's

    • "Former NFL star Dave Pear is sorry he ever played football"
      http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/jeff_pearlman/12/18/pear/ [cnn.com]
      """
      "I wish I never played football. I wish that more than anything. Every single day, I want to take back those years of my life ..."
      The words are not subtle. They spit from Pear's mouth, with a blistering contempt normally reserved for drunk drivers. We are speaking via phone. I am in New York, sipping a hot chocolate, leaning back in a chair. My two young children are asleep.

  • All I'm going to say about this is that it doesn't really help when the media and others continues to fuel the fire. Why am I labeled an "uber geek" and people who are into their cars, guns, whatever else aren't?

    • Because your chosen niche hobby isn't widely held as a "social/physical niche hobby", even when it can be. Cars, guns, and sports on the other hand are supposedly more social when they just have more face to face and are more physical hobbies than being at a keyboard is.
      • by suso (153703) *

        Because your chosen niche hobby isn't widely held as a "social/physical niche hobby", even when it can be. Cars, guns, and sports on the other hand are supposedly more social when they just have more face to face and are more physical hobbies than being at a keyboard is.

        Nope, that's not it, because when you get together in groups for stuff like users groups meetings or for a game fest, you're still ridiculed for it. In fact, even more so. For some reason, people just like to pick on computers as a hobby. Most likely because its new.

        During the mid to late 90s, tech enthusiasts enjoyed an elevated social status that they had not had before, but I think that has mostly worn off.

    • by awyeah (70462) *

      It doesn't help, but parents need to do a better job teaching their kids to make their own decisions and not listen to the media. It's personal responsibility.

  • by E IS mC(Square) (721736) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:19PM (#30527190) Journal
    http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/21/nerd-and-geek-should-be-banned-professor-says/ [nytimes.com]

    "David Anderegg, a professor of psychology at Bennington College, says that merely mentioning terms like nerd or geek serves to perpetuate the stereotype. The words are damaging, much like racial epithets, he says, and should be avoided."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PitaBred (632671)
      So I'm not white, I'm "European-American"? That smacks of PC bullshit. I'm not "European-American". I'm American. I was born here, from parents who were born here. The only types of people who have claim to be "African-American" are my niece and nephew who were adopted from Ethiopia. THAT is an African-American. A geeks and nerds are perfectly acceptable terms to people who identify with that culture. "Perpetuating" the stereotype is not the problem... the problem is what the actual stereotype is. And THAT
  • Oh really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KermodeBear (738243) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:19PM (#30527194) Homepage

    'The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality.'

    Yeah. The reality is that you will be stuck in a small cube writing code instead.

    • by Znork (31774)

      you will be stuck in a small cube writing code

      You mean the Indian guy will be stuck in a small cube writing code. "You" will be stuck on the street writing code for food (or a ticket to India).

    • Re:Oh really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jimmy King (828214) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:34PM (#30527470) Homepage Journal
      What do you mean "stuck in a small cube"? I've got tons of space. My employer has reduced our local development team from 7 people down to just me and now I've got the entire area to myself.
    • I wish I had a cube. I'm in the corner of a common area in a lab, with a community workbench right behind my chair.
    • The reason I have post-its EVERYWHERE is not to actually remind me of anything, it's to give the white plastic a more "off-baige" feel that the basement paint colour had made so comfortable.

    • Re:Oh really? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by thenextstevejobs (1586847) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @05:07PM (#30529002)

      'The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality.'

      Yeah. The reality is that you will be stuck in a small cube writing code instead.

      This story speaks to me in a lot of ways.

      My only exposure to anything related to programming before college was HTML. I had no idea of the 'magic' of programming until I was in a college level programming course. Which I was only in because it was a requirement for electrical engineering classes I was interested in because I wanted to understand synthesizers and analog circuits better.

      I grew up under a lot more pressure to be an 'artist' or creative-type than engineer. Most of my friends are from this world as well. From the outside, computer science looks pretty bleak. My idea of it was as follows. You sit at a computer terminal for your entire life, typing. And no one even reads what you write. If I was going to sit at a computer, why wouldn't I at least write for an audience? Why would I choose a job that seems solitary and unexciting? It seems like what you'd think being an accountant would be like.

      Having just graduated and spent the last few years doing programming internships, it amazes me how wrong I was about the rewards of programming. No one told me the 'power' I would wield, the infinities of computing, the vastness of what you can express with programming language. That I'd confront hundreds of problems with thousands of solutions, and use my creativity and cunning to apply the most elegant and effective one. That the 'barrier to entry' of creating your own startup that could influence millions of users is little more than some education and a laptop and a server in your closet.

      I feel like I found a goldmine that no one was hinting at. It is a primary goal of my professional career to expose more kids like myself to programming. The sentiment of the article is right on. Computers are not leveraged nearly enough in the fields I'm interested in. And it's due primarily I think to a misunderstanding about what programming is, and how it feels to do it. I encounter this firsthand often in Linguistics (also something I focused on in college) where many problems of data collection and analysis are considered impossible by my peers but understood as a solvable engineering problem to me.

      I hope that this continues to be in focus. Too often it is a dichotomy between being a 'computer-person' or not, and I think many of us who were into other things got sucked into computers when we discovered them. It's a deep field and difficult to get a handle on, I think, coming from another area. But the benefits are too great to ignore.

  • Look at what this madness did to TechTV. Nerds are nerds. You're never going to make Z80 assembly seems sexy or cool.
    I doubt anyone on G4 can heat a burrito properly, let alone program in any computer language.
    • I doubt anyone on G4 can heat a burrito properly, let alone program in any computer language.

      Well if they get stuck eating a frozen burrito then they might be a kind of cool nerd.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MozeeToby (1163751)

      You'd be surprised what people find sexy and cool. There's an entire generation of engineers and scientists who think the Apollo program is and was the coolest thing humanity has ever done. Some percentage of them almost certainly were inspired by that cool factor to become the professionals they are today. Even outside the technology fields I'll bet the vast majority of people can name the first people to step on the moon (poor Micheal Collins, probably not though). If you want to inspire people you ha

  • by introspekt.i (1233118) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:20PM (#30527212)

    Not enough young people are embracing computing, often because they are leery of being branded nerds.

    I think a lot of young people just don't find it interesting. I think a lot of older people feel the same way. People tend to do what they're passionate about, and passionate people tend to think less of the opinions of others and more about what they want to do. Do we really need to press this field on more people?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FLEB (312391)

      Along those same lines, I'd agree with the summary (RTFA? Me? Never!) that early computer education needs to be divorced from only the dull and pointless (MS Office training) and the specialized (programming) to include a wider range of activities that use computers as a tool. Computers have advanced in usability to the point where interacting with "the computer" is overshadowed by interacting with software, websites, and people. Frame computer literacy not in terms of "computer classes", but in terms of ar

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:46PM (#30527728)

      I think a lot of young people just don't find it interesting. I think a lot of older people feel the same way. People tend to do what they're passionate about, and passionate people tend to think less of the opinions of others and more about what they want to do. Do we really need to press this field on more people?

      A lot of young people don't find reading, writing, or basic mathematics -- or general science, civics or economics -- interesting either, and we press those on people as educational requirements. Given that computing is a fairly fundamental tool of modern society in every field, a certain baseline understanding of the basic principles involved may be quite reasonable to expect as a core educational requirement.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vlm (69642)

        A lot of young people don't find reading, writing, or basic mathematics -- or general science, civics or economics -- interesting either, and we press those on people as educational requirements.

        On the other hand, they don't like foreign languages, shop class, literature classes, or home ec class, so we dumped them.

        Whats the difference between computing class, and German class? I don't think "computing classes" are, by and large, needed.

        The biggest problem is the demand that kids learn something old, so that decades later they'll have amazing 'puter skills. Nothing could possibly be more useless than the time I spent in 1st grade learning "bank street writer" on a C64. Or my amazing "Winders fer

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      This is it exactly. I'm really tired of all this whining about how we need to push more young people into computer-related or engineering fields. If they're not interested in those things, they're not interested. If that means our economy goes down the crapper in 30 years because everyone would rather play sports or be real estate agents or scam artists, then so be it. Let nations where people believe in hard work and doing technical things be the ones to get ahead, instead of trying to push people into

    • by awyeah (70462) *

      I think parents have the ability to affect what their kids are passionate about.

    • I don't think any chosen field has a lot to do with anything, tech-wise.

      As we let more of our daily tasks (and even specialized tasks) be done with computers, people end up learning bits and pieces of software programs, sometimes becoming "experts" with whatever program is used.

      As much as people would like to view all computer-related work as just using an appliance, we're jut not there and I don't believe we'll ever be there.

      The biotech profession - particularly drug discovery - comes to mind, but th

  • idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rubycodez (864176) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:21PM (#30527224)

    they'll be sitting in mom's basement e-mailing resumes, employers don't want fresh-out-of-school grads. maybe we need a national apprenticeship program to give young people experience in the tech fields.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      they'll be sitting in mom's basement e-mailing resumes, employers don't want fresh-out-of-school grads. maybe we need a national apprenticeship program to give young people experience in the tech fields.

      I can agree with this. Germany has a good approach towards engineering education. Students go through the typical University level engineering education with math, physics, engineering, etc, but then it is also paired with apprenticeships where they are mentored with real hands on work (note: there is a difference between apprenticeship and "intern" or "coop" like we have in the USA where a college student sits in front of a computer all day with no hands on work). Also, if you want to get an engineering

  • ...There already are not enough tech jobs for us. Sure, we had a hard time in high school (at least I know I did), but we get our day eventually. Particularly for me, my day was last week when I saw one of the biggest, douchiest jocks from my high school working at the local car wash.
    • by Paralizer (792155)
      How sad your world must be if that is what gives you a feeling of accomplishment and self worth.

      Furthermore you don't even know the circumstances (or seemed to imply you don't) to which he was working there. What if he's just doing his friend a favor by giving him some help on a busy day? What if he lost a bet and had to work there for a few hours? What if he owns or co-owns the place? If you merely saw him there then you know nothing and to assume you are better than him shows how shallow you really a
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Jesus dude, it was a joke (well it really happened, but it certainly did not actually make my life). I bet people hate watching movies with you...
  • Solution is easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:22PM (#30527238)

    It's quite simple. Give the technology classes to people who actually understand the subject and can teach interesting aspects of computer science.

    All of my computer courses were either run by secretaries "Learn excel!" or mathematicians "Learn esoteric matlab graphing!"

    Teach kids something more entertaining for a broader swath of students like visual effects. Write a renderer in a compositing application. or Teach kids Torque Game Builder. Something simple but creates a product the students actually are interested in.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:39PM (#30527560)

      It's quite simple. Give the technology classes to people who actually understand the subject and can teach interesting aspects of computer science.

      And how, exactly, do you get those people to accept the combination of pay and working conditions given to high school teachers?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by scamper_22 (1073470)

        ummm, I've known many engineers who left the field to be teachers.

        Teaching is not a poor profession. In places like New York you can reach 6 figures with a pension and job security.

        If anything, this kind of article misses the point entirely.
        You do not need to make science *cool* or hire *cool* teachers or make science *fun*.

        I've seen colleagues leave the field. They love the cool part of their job. They just hate their actual job. They feel underpaid, overworked, no job security...
        You know the things yo

  • 'The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality.'

    Quite right! It's a cubicle.

  • What about Turing? Tesla? Archimedes? Einstein? Hawking? Those guys from 'Big Bang Theory'?

    How much cooler do you want?

    • by Tikkun (992269)

      How much cooler do you want?

      I don't think any of the real nerds you mention wore ironic tee shirts or talked about how social media will transform how the world finds the best sushi restaurant in San Francisco.

  • My mom says I'm cool.
  • We have enough. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:27PM (#30527346)

    We have enough raw labor resources in this country to meet any technology demand. Don't blame the culture or this lame-ass idea that people are afraid of being labelled nerds. If I made six figures, they could call me the pink tutu goddess of networking and I wouldn't mind.

    The problem is that businesses don't want to pay highly-trained and specialized workers more. They've tried outsourcing, right-sizing, downsizing, globalization, and every other way possible to screw people out of wages. And curiously enough, we keep coming back to the same problem -- no matter how big you make the labor pool, the required training and experience required to do these jobs demands a certain minimum income. Keynesian economics, I'm looking at you -- your adherents continue to believe that if they keep expanding the labor pool they'll reach a price point they want. Well, good luck with that...

    • The problem is that businesses don't want to pay highly-trained and specialized workers more.

      In my experience, even during this recent recession, payscales for software developers in Silicon Valley continue to well outpace inflation. Where are you working where business do not pay more?

      • Where are you working where business do not pay more?

        That would be just about anywhere else in the country right now except New York and a certain small area in Washington.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NiteShaed (315799)

        payscales for software developers in Silicon Valley continue to well outpace inflation. Where are you working where business do not pay more?

        Isn't that a little like saying that while living in Beverly Hills you haven't seen evidence of this "homelessness" thing that people talk about? Silicon Valley may not be representative of the U.S. tech-job market in general.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster (516420)

      The problem is that businesses don't want to pay highly-trained and specialized workers more. They've tried outsourcing, right-sizing, downsizing, globalization, and every other way possible to screw people out of wages. And curiously enough, we keep coming back to the same problem -- no matter how big you make the labor pool, the required training and experience required to do these jobs demands a certain minimum income

      This is a good point and it highlights a problem with current government attempts to encourage more youngsters to pursue careers in STEM. We say that we want "smarter" high school students and more interest in STEM professions while at the same time we continue to see outsourcing, visa fraud, and even less savory tactics used by employers to avoid paying for skills and expertise they say are needed to compete in the 21st century economy. The smart high school students are going to ask, "Why should we bust o

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fermion (181285)
      Pretty much I have to agree it is the pay. There was a time when a person could get paid to make something. I don't want to turn this into a debate about the declining manufacturing capability in America, but I do want to state some facts. Much of the debate of 2008 and 2009 centered around the failing car companies, and that American car companies paid their employees a livable wage, meaning their families could eat, have a house, and good medical care. In this debate, it was seldom mentioned that the
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sowth (748135) *

      It seems to me with everything being run by large corporations, you are essentially living in a manorial type society [middle-ages.org.uk]. You plead fealty to your lords, and they give you wages in return.

      The problem with this is it you create a massive top-down hierarchy where you are totally dependent upon the honesty of those at the top. If anyone in the management structure wants to siphon most of the wealth into their own pockets, there isn't much to stop them except the manager above. At the top, there is no one above,

  • Secretaries (Score:3, Insightful)

    by digitalhermit (113459) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:29PM (#30527366) Homepage

    It wasn't *that* long ago that executives didn't type their own memos and letters. Ask one to use a typewriter or a word processor and they would have laughed or wouldn't know how to do it.

    More and more computing skills are becoming basic skills. Maybe only the dinosaurs continue to use word processors and spreadsheets, but people still want wikis and PDFs. And by dinosaurs I don't mean the old schoolers, but those who still cling to the idea that in this age, the best way to disseminate knowledge is to print it on an 8" x 11", un-editable, fixed document stuck in a binder...

    And that's part of the problem. In my day to day work I don't need a word processor or a spreadsheet except when a manager specifically asks for documentation in that format. So I gather my data and run it through a utility to convert it to a pretty Excel sheet, or convert it to a nicely formatted PDF, or make it into a web page. We're teaching kids to use tools that don't work all that well for the media-rich environment we have today.

    Teach them to write a Facebook app or use a content creation tool.. That will be more useful than learning how to print mail merged letters.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It wasn't *that* long ago that executives didn't type their own memos and letters. Ask one to use a typewriter or a word processor and they would have laughed or wouldn't know how to do it.

      And it wasn't that long ago when even first-level managers were in the same boat. And it's a shame those days have passed. No longer do you see cute young female secretaries and file clerks with pert bosoms and short skirts roaming the hallways, ready for a little bit of office work. It is a sad era we live in, indeed

  • Media Branding (Score:5, Insightful)

    by decipher_saint (72686) * on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:29PM (#30527368) Homepage

    How about this, stop calling people who use computers to get things done as "nerds" ("geeks", "techies", etc).

    Look at any magazine or television commercial, you think all that crap was hand carved out of stone and painted with the tears of virgins? I guarantee a computer was used at some point or another in the creative development behind it. Hell, music has been constantly fusing with new technology for ages, was Les Paul a "nerd"?

    Technology, computers especially, penetrated society long ago, the only thing that creates this "us & them" rift is constant stereotype re-enforcement through the media.

    Now, if you'll excuse me I have to go re-alphabetize my D&D collection while being bad at sports, good day to you sir!

  • Affairs (Score:5, Funny)

    by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:33PM (#30527444)

    Clearly, Bill Gates, and some of the other titans of the industry need to bite the bullet and have some very public, scandalous affairs so that the media will start talking about how immoral and terrible people software designers are. Then suddenly sportsmen will become model citizens and no one will want to go into sports anymore.

  • 'The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality.'"

    No. You'll be sitting in a cube, reading and posting to slashdot.
  • That's me! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jorgandar (450573) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:34PM (#30527468)

    Happy to see somewhere out there someone believes in the cool nerds. (i'm also the gay one, and at work that means i'm triple times fabulous ;). I no longer work in IT but i work in regulatory compliance. Where do i find still my undergrad degree in computing sciences useful? EVERYWHERE and EVERY DAY!!! I believe the biggest mistake of this century is for businesses to isolate their "tech" employees to an IT department. This structure ensures that all computing knowledge is isolated from the rest of the business that could use it to increase productivity! I've written countless scripts, reports and other programs to perform simple otherwise labrous tasks and free business workers to focus on important things. People think i'm some sort of miracle worker. The reality is that i'm simply an anomaly at the firm - a person with a computing background who works in the business side. There needs to be more of us - many more!! When i'm CEO - there will be people with computer science backgrounds positioned everywhere in the company. They are the key to connecting the business with technology needs and making business far more efficient. An "IT" department, no matter how good, isn't as good as mixing knowledge of technology in the business side directly.

  • There aren't enough nerds? You mean that you don't want to pay what nerds charge for what they do.

    There's plenty of us out there... Enough that many are unemployed. Businesses just want more nerds on the field so they can pick better ones and pay them less.

    By that same token, I declare that there are too many: CEOs, mechanics, doctors, etc etc.

  • by NoPantsJim (1149003) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:37PM (#30527508) Homepage
    Every time I go out somewhere, I can overhear idiots bashfully proclaiming to be "total nerds" to impress girls, despite not being able to string a sentence together or use a word with more than two syllables.

    Don't get me wrong, the whole nerd chic thing has been great to me, but guys who used to beat up guys like me calling themselves nerds just to get laid is a bit annoying.
    • by tverbeek (457094)

      There are also people who don't have socials skills or enough technical knowledge to figure out why the image on their new widescreen LCD is stretched blurry, who call themselves "nerds" and give those of us with some redeeming intelligence a bad name.

      • Thank you, I think we're talking about the exact same type of person. It's like people are diluting the term "nerd".
  • As someone who has tried to do exactly what this article suggests, I feel obligated to chime in and say that I think it's absolutely correct. People with the ability to apply technology skills to business or societal needs of a particular discipline are extremely valuable.

    For example, in my case, I combined healthcare knowledge, social science and information systems and now work in a very interesting and challenging segment of the healthcare industry.

    I would point out that it is very challenging and can b

  • At the moment in a purely IT role (some management, some hands on, etc), I make about the same amount as an average doctor and work less hours. Granted I'm sure that some specialists make a lot more, but the simple fact is that there isn't a motivation to move.

    To be honest, I have considered pursuing a medical degree -- not for the money, but for my own interest. Looking at the amount of time I have to invest, looking at the amounts of loans I have to take out, looking at the long term gain -- it's not wort

  • Various advocacy groups have been proclaiming severe shortages of scientists and engineers since Sputnik fifty years ago. The loudest voices are computer companies who ask to hire more people from abroad under restrictive H-1B visas. And the National Science Foundation which has a vested interest in ever-increasing numbers of sci-tech students.

    On the opposing side are professional societies which worry about unemployment among older sci-tech workers. People are suspicious employers are interested in che
  • Not enough young people are embracing computing, often because they are leery of being branded nerds.

    Really? REALLY? You think so? It couldn't be due to the fact that not everyone likes computers, that some would much rather be hanging out at a mall shopping, or seeing the latest movies, or running around in a field doing some sport or another. If you have a computer in the house, and you let your child browse the internet (with some filtering) - they can learn to surf the web by the time they enter grade school. (I know I did). This is a headstart to computer sciences. At first they'll learn about program

  • Medical doctors writing the code to run highly sophisticated and/or potentially dangerous medical equipment....

    Pilots writing fly-by-wire or ATC systems....

    MBAs writing ERP systems...

    Etc.

  • In the UK, I was told not to bother with computing related courses, instead doing Maths and Further Maths. ICT is a course on being a receptionist. Nothing more.
  • by jmac880n (659699) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:49PM (#30527774)

    ... just like Mathematics.

    It means nothing by itself, except as a means to an end of solving practical problems.

    That said, it makes all the sense in the world for most Computer Scientists to learn other domains of knowledge to apply to.

    The more disciplines you are familiar with, the more adept you will be at applying your programming skills to solving real-world problems.

  • Today, introductory courses in computer science are too often focused merely on teaching students to use software like word processing and spreadsheet programs

    Singular, not plural.

    Today, introductory courses in computer science are too often focused merely on teaching students to use Microsoft Word processing and Microsoft Excel spreadsheet program.

    I went to a crappy private catholic high school 16 years ago but, luckily, our first course was in GW Basic. My girl just took a Computer Science class at the local community college and all she went through was Word, Excel, Access. It made me kind of mad, cause all she really learned was where to find all the menus in

  • The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality. How true! The vast majority are instead stuck in a cubicle, writing code. Basements are passé!
  • by tenco (773732)

    Today, introductory courses in computer science are too often focused merely on teaching students to use software like word processing and spreadsheet programs,

    Seriously? I mean, they teach that stuff in computer science classes?

  • At least the US economy has some cool nerds to hire. The UK requires students to specialise at 14-16, and the result is whole classes of computing students who have not a clue about how their work will be applied, particularly in science and engineering.

  • Horrible Idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by elnyka (803306) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @05:14PM (#30529124) Homepage

    Steve Lohr writes in the NY Times that the country needs more 'cool' nerds — professionals with hybrid careers that combine computing with other fields like medicine, art, or journalism.

    Bad idea (not unless we are talking about people who have a BS/BA degree in a technical field pursuing another BS/BA degree - or even a MS - in another technical field. Now, THAT'S A HYBRID CAREER. We already have a problem with watered down CompSci and MIS programs churning chumps who can't code for shit themselves out of a wet paper bag. CompSci, MIS, Software Development and IT, these are fields that call for people that are domain experts and specialist, not watered down hobbyists with superficial and inadequate training.

    It is quite telling of our society that when facing with a shortage of scientific/engineering talent, the solution is to make it more "cool" as opposed to raising the scholastic expectations of kids. As if "cool" makes up for the grey matter required to be a (good) software developer. Either the author thinks software disciplines are shallow enough that they can be weaved in with a medicine, journalist or even an arts curriculum (an art curriculum takes quite a lot of work to get through.) Either that, or he thinks these other disciplines can be watered down so as to allow someone to be graduate in both (notice that I say "graduate", not "be sufficiently competent.")

    How come you don't see that type of mentality in India, China or, say Eastern Europe? You want kids to be interested in hard sciences (not just software disciplines)? Then raise the bar and academic rigor starting from 2nd grade all the way to 12th, where the objective is to learn and not simply to pass. You don't solve an educational deficiency by painting "cool" all over it.

    On another note, I stopped reading the article when I hit this:

    Today, introductory courses in computer science are too often focused merely on teaching students to use software like word processing and spreadsheet programs, said Janice C. Cuny, a program director at the National Science Foundation.

    Say fucking what? I know that Computer Science curriculum in most universities have been watered down into Java/C# schools, but give me a fucking break. Either the journalist is misquoting Cuny, or she actually said - and I quote - that introductory courses in computer science are too focused on software like word processing and spreadsheet programs. If it's the later, someone kicks her out of the NSF. There is no "science" in that kind of stupid remark.

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @05:22PM (#30529240) Homepage Journal

    Many of my fellow techies have observed that "domain knowledge" is simply not valued. It's always a specific set of tools and IT buzzwords companies are looking for, not domain knowledge. One time industry knowledge on my resume helped me land a contract, but it was still the tech tools/languages that got me on the review list. If companies value domain knowledge more than tool knowledge, they don't act like it. This article simply contradicts my multi-decade experience in the IT field. Something is out of whack.

    Maybe the article is simply a big euphemism for "nerds need more people skills". That may be true, but they seem too timid to outright say it. Sure, every company wants somebody with A+ people skills and A+ tech skills and wants to pay them D wages. And I want a Ferrari that runs on water.
           

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