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Education Government Programming

How Many Members of Congress Does It Take To Pass a $400MM CS Bill? 180

theodp writes: Over at Code.org, they're celebrating because more than 100 members of Congress are now co-sponsoring the Computer Science Education Act (HR 2536), making the bill designed to"strengthen elementary and secondary computer science education" the most broadly cosponsored education bill in the House. By adding fewer than 50 words to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, HR 2536 would elevate Computer Science to a "core academic subject" (current core academic subjects are English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography), a status that opens the doors not only to a number of funding opportunities, but also to a number of government regulations. So, now that we know it takes 112 U.S. Representatives to make a CS education bill, the next question is, "How many taxpayer dollars will it take to pay for the consequences?" While Code.org says "the bill is cost-neutral and doesn't introduce new programs or mandates," the organization in April pegged the cost of putting CS in every school at $300-$400 million. In Congressional testimony last January, Code.org proposed that "comprehensive immigration reform efforts that tie H-1B visa fees to a new STEM education fund" could be used "to support the teaching and learning of more computer science in K-12 schools," echoing Microsoft's National Talent Strategy.
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How Many Members of Congress Does It Take To Pass a $400MM CS Bill?

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  • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Saturday August 02, 2014 @07:22PM (#47591155)

    Honestly, forcing computer programming on kids will have the same effect as forcing math on them. It's no different - it's a way of solving problems, except by using logic and algorithms rather than equations. It's still a general solution in search of a problem. I think a lot of tech people tend to view technology as being interesting or important for it's own sake, but that's not how the world at large sees technology (nor should it). It's only real-world value is in what it can do for us that we couldn't do before without it, as heretical as that may sound here on slashdot.

    My advice to educators is to let kids make their own computer games. You'll sucker them into doing some of the hardest sort of programming there is, and they'll likely enjoy it. More importantly, for those that are more artistically or creatively inclined rather than technically inclined, they can help out with artwork, story, music, and sound effects. Videogame programming is a fantastic cross-discipline project that can involve all sorts of different skills and abilities. So, not everyone has to write code, but everyone can contribute in some way.

    I've found that computer games are great at driving home the need to learn higher math as well. Geometry, linear algebra, and matrix math are all used extensively in many types of games. Kids will naturally run into these problems, and probably work in vain to come up with a home-grown solution. At that point they're primed to learn a more elegant solution using higher math. The big advantage is that this lesson concretely demonstrates the value and usefulness of that math, making it much easier to learn and appreciate since it has a useful context.

  • Bad idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blindseer ( 891256 ) <`blindseer' `at' `earthlink.net'> on Saturday August 02, 2014 @07:45PM (#47591235)

    When I was in school the "computer" class was not much more than learning to type. We got to play with AppleWorks and some sort of graphics program, the best one could get with 8 bits of color.

    I recall a conversation I had with a co-worker about how we need more and better computers in schools or our children will be somehow educationally stunted. I pointed out how the Apple ProDos and Microsoft DOS systems we used reflected the Windows 7, Mac OSX, and Linux systems we use today. Elementary school children don't need fancy computers. I wonder if they need computers at all. I'm sure that skills like typing will be important, I took that in high school. Students will need to understand that computers do what they are told, not what you want them to do, but that is true of many things. Mathematics, physics, and chemistry have similar rules. I could argue that law has similar rigor, words mean things. If the law does not mean what you want it to mean then change the law. Perhaps that is a rant for another time.

    Point is that computers are an important part of modern life. Computer technology is still changing fast, whether it is faster or slower now than when I was in grade school is debatable. Rather than teach "computers" to children perhaps we need to find a way to work computers into every subject. Art class should have a portion where students work in PhotoShop, just like they have sections on clay, paint, or colored pencils. Shop class should have a portion on CNC milling. Mathematics has all kinds of options to work in computing. Chemistry and physics classes can work in computers to run simulations and compare to real world experimentation, or do some statistical analysis on data collected in experiments.

    I believe that teaching "computer science" at too young of an age is a bad idea. It will do little to prepare children for life as an adult. I suspect most implementations of "computer science" at anything other than college or trade school levels will be twisted into something that is not "computer science". It will be much like what I had in school, an excuse to play with expensive toys and the only real skills derived from it will be learning how to type. It doesn't have to be that way but I believe that is how it will end up because real computer scientists rarely choose to teach, they make more money doing something else. Much of the issues with teachers not getting paid enough has to do with the government funded education system we have now.

  • by BronsCon ( 927697 ) <social@bronstrup.com> on Saturday August 02, 2014 @08:11PM (#47591303) Journal
    This post succinctly describes why I'm not a Java developer, no matter how many times I've set out to learn the language. I'm primarily a web developer, full-stack LAMP and JavaScript (with strong sysadmin roots), so everything I've ever set out to develop in Java had followed the same process: start development, determine I could implement it better as a web app, begin implementing as a web app, get annoyed at reimplementing logic I've already done, causing me to eventually abandon the project. It wasn't until recently, when I started a project that can't really work as a web app, that the light came on and the value of Java (likely as a stepping stone to a number of other languages) became concrete for me; as you said, making it much easier to learn and appreciate since it has a useful context.

    This is how people learn. Give them a problem, give them the tools. Hell, show them what the solution should look like. Leave it to them to figure out how to get from the problem to the solution; don't tell them anything they don't ask for. Let them fuck up. When they get stumped, they'll ask for help; show them what they did wrong, don't tell them what they should have done, unless they ask. People are inherently smart, unless you teach them to be dumb.

Programmers used to batch environments may find it hard to live without giant listings; we would find it hard to use them. -- D.M. Ritchie