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Google, Facebook, Microsoft Deliver K-12 CS Demands To Congress (politico.com) 120

theodp writes: Politico reports that just one day after Facebook launched TechPrep, a highly-publicized initiative to attract more minorities and women to coding, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Code.org quietly sent a letter to top education lawmakers in the House and Senate insisting that computer science "must" be added to the list of "core academic subjects" and states be given resources to improve STEM education programs. "Computer science is marginalized throughout K-12 education," reads the letter. "We need to improve access for all students, particularly groups who have traditionally been underrepresented." Echoing the last point at this month's Grace Hopper Women in Computer Celebration, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki called for mandatory computer science in schools, suggesting that boys — like her own son — are monopolizing the family computer across America, leaving girls — like her own daughter — out of the conversation when it comes to technology (video @38:33). The new round of hand-wringing comes as tech companies face the deadline for filing their 2015 EEO-1 surveys and seek more tech-friendly U.S. visa and OPT STEM policies, so it's probably worth remembering that Microsoft proposed tech could turn workforce diversity lemons into H-1B visa lemonade by connecting tech immigration to K-12 CS education.
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Google, Facebook, Microsoft Deliver K-12 CS Demands To Congress

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 23, 2015 @02:50PM (#50789369)

    Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Mosnter Deliver K-12 Chemistry Demands To Congress ...

    do you get better CS grads or do you get better "human resources" for companies like Microsoft, Google, whatever

    • "YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki called for mandatory computer science in schools, suggesting that boys — like her own son — are monopolizing the family computer across America, leaving girls — like her own daughter — out of the conversation when it comes to technology"

      I have this crazy idea. I think Susan can afford...a second computer! Or put some kind of time limit on how long someone can use the computer.

      But guess what, I bet if she does, she'll still find her daughter instead eithe

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Where are our famously underfunded schools [amazon.com] going to get the money to teach all this CS to the lowest common denominator, anyway?

    • by sh00z ( 206503 ) <sh00z&yahoo,com> on Friday October 23, 2015 @02:59PM (#50789433) Journal
      Precisely. If they're going to "demand" this, they need to stop extorting tax breaks out of the cities and states where they consider building new facilities, so the school systems will actually be able to afford to provide a decent education.
      • The word "demand" is just bad headline writing. Blame Soulskill, not tech companies. This letter is more, "You should do this because it will benefit the US in the future in a way that is important to us as well."

        As for local tax breaks, a move towards federally-funded primary education would do more far more for US students, as tech companies tend to be clustered. If we got away from the idea of locally-funded education, we could actually have a system where a student in NYC could have about as much cha

    • to know CS on the standardized tests. In the wealthier districts this'll be no big deal. The parents will buy their kids laptops to do their homework and hire tutors to get them through the tough spots. In the working class neighborhoods they'll be a few years while they kids have enough computers and then they'll start to break down. After that the grants that the companies gave in exchange for us paying to train their employees will have run out and those kids will be screwed. This is how it works. Don't
      • if you know how to get the blue collar types to stop giving a rat's ass about social issues, stop blaming Unions for their troubles and get them voting for popularist economic policies that are in their best interest again please let me know.

        Whenever someone tells me they know what's in my best interest, I worry.

        And why does it have to be the blue collar types that have to stop caring about social issues? They are not the ones bringing up these social issue topics. The democrats progressives are and the people react to them.

        People don't realize how much the political landscape has changed in the past 10 years. The democrat party is more in bed with wall-street than the republicans could have ever dreamed of. When you throw in the tech and e

        • I'm serious. There is such a thing as being right, you know? Yes, people are out to get you, but you can't let that get in the way of using the tools that are available to you. What's the old saying: The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing you he didn't exist. Well the greatest trick the Right Wing every played was convincing you to abandon gov't out of fear. They right wing haven't abandoned gov't. They use it to their advantage. Here's another way to think of it. Imagine there's an open cr
      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I live in a poor area, not so poor as to be destitute but much of it seems to be by choice. I'm way out in the woods of Maine. We have a small (56 students) elementary school which is part of a larger district but the town opts to keep the elementary school close instead of busing the kids further away. After hemming and hawing to determine which was best, the solitary IT guy is a friend of mine, we decided that the iPod fit the bill. So, I bought all the kids an iPod and the bonus is that they can keep the

        • what I see are cycles of poverty reinforced by decisions that aren't made by the children. They don't choose for their moms to drink a little while they're pregnant, or not eat enough or see the doctor enough because of poverty (the Republicans have been chipping away at WIC for ages). They don't pick their underfunded schools with their 49 student class sizes full of special ed kids that disrupt the class every 5 minutes (if they try to go to the nice districts their parents get in trouble, a woman went to
          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            Oh, I'm not a teacher by trade. I'm just a citizen who managed to sell his business and was able to retire comfortably. I do what I do because it's the right thing to do. I did do some teaching, after retirement, but that was at the collegiate level.

            I don't have answers other than what was stated. Do what you can, even if it's just a little. You'll never get perfection. You can try to make it a little better. Even if it's just a little. If we all did that then maybe, just maybe, we can turn things around. W

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday October 23, 2015 @03:23PM (#50789595)

      Where are our famously underfunded schools [amazon.com] going to get the money ...

      American schools are NOT underfunded. They receive more funding than almost any other country in the world. Only Norway and Switzerland spend more per student on education. Many of the countries spending a small fraction of what America spends, get far better results.

      However, America's education spending is mostly based on local property taxes, which results in very unequal funding. But it is not clear if more spending will help much. New Jersey's "Save Our Schools" program poured millions into poorly performing schools, and resulted in negligible improvement. After Freddie Gray was killed in Baltimore's Sandtown slum, people pointed at the terrible schools as a source of the social decay. Yet Sandtown has some of the best funded schools in the country. The Feds have poured in millions spread over two decades. Yet, on a typical day, only half the kids show up for class. Whatever the problem is, it isn't just money.

      • There are US schools that can't even afford repairs to their buildings. We have essentially a two tier system in the US, not official of course. The wealthy schools and the neglected schools. Separate and unequal. Even in the same school district you can see the poor schools vs the good schools. Where the money goes we don't know, but it's not to better teachers or better buildings.

      • This has been known for a while. In the 80's Kansas City ended up spending $2 billion in school funding over roughly a decade after a court ruling from a federal judge to improve their schools and it did nothing to improve education attainment despite having the highest spending per pupil in the nation. [governing.com] Education isn't something you can throw money at to fix. If you're trying to make a fundamentally flawed system work, additional funding won't achieve anything.
    • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr@mac.cOPENBSDom minus bsd> on Friday October 23, 2015 @03:29PM (#50789649) Journal

      Our schools are not underfunded. [cato.org] They're over-administered.

      -jcr

  • Youtube CEO (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 23, 2015 @02:54PM (#50789395)

    So the CEO of Youtube can't afford a second computer for her daughter?

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      >> CEO of Youtube can't afford a second computer

      The CEO might be out of a job once the shareholders figure out that YouTube's new premium service (YouTube Red) seems to be named after a porn site (RedTube).

      • The CEO might be out of a job once the shareholders figure out that YouTube's new premium service (YouTube Red) seems to be named after a porn site (RedTube).

        As long as it increases traffic and revenue, why would the shareholders care?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So the CEO of Youtube can't afford a second computer for her daughter?

      Or manage her children.

    • Worse than that I'd say, she is apparently powerless to say "hey son, you've been on the computer all day. Let your sister on".
    • The clear solution is to send the male child to a labor camp so that the female child can get her fair share of computer time. I'm afraid there is no other way.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 23, 2015 @02:56PM (#50789405)

    Like NOW and other Feminist groups haven't done enough to propel girls ahead of boys in education (and other things).

    • by Cassini2 ( 956052 ) on Friday October 23, 2015 @03:34PM (#50789713)

      Instead of excellence, the modern educational system says: "These students are interested in something, so let's educate a different group on the topic!"

      People should be saying: "These students are interested in computer programming, let's make them better programmers!" Demand should be created through the celebration of accomplishments.

      Taking away the achievements of the interested, results in mediocrity. Yes, it would be nice to have more girls in computer programming. However, the goal of the educational system is often to make everyone the same. To make the interested boys equal to the uninterested girls. Is this the solution we want? Because that is what the school system will implement. The modern school system is very good at targeting the average (or the below average). It sucks at enabling gifted students to excel.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Somewhere along the lines, we went from a goal of equal rights to a goal equal outcomes. I can speculate as to where and when but that's immaterial, it's unlikely to change in the near-term. Look at how the focus has changed and the assumption is that if it's not an equal outcome then there's bias in the system. Preferences and individuality be damned - an equal outcome has become mandatory. I'm not sure how we'll achieve that without lowering standards but we'll see.

        • Equal opportunity, more than equal rights, was what we had as a goal before.

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            I include opportunity as a right. I probably could have been more specific but kind of figured it was included. With equal rights comes equal opportunities. I'm not sure why people expect equal outcomes. We are, biologically, different and certain people will naturally excel at certain things. This doesn't mean that they're not entitled to try or that they're unable to but it does mean we'll get different outcomes. I'm all for giving everyone the chance to do what they want to go in life. I'm just not sure

      • by Hasaf ( 3744357 )

        I teach Computer Technology at a middle school.

        I have been told, by the IT department (who have no place setting curriculum) that there will be no development environments or programming software installed and that I am not to teach it. This is due to a fear of, the undefined word, "hacking."

        Further, I am, starting next semester, to stop teaching computer fundamentals and teach, only, applications. As such the intro to computers (parts of a computer, what is a network, that type of stuff . . . ) is out. In

        • Maybe try to establish an after-school club with Raspberry Pis? That takes it out of the domain of IT, which is probably the important thing to accomplish.

      • The modern school system is very good at targeting the average

        I don't think it's very good at targeting the average, either.

  • flonk.flonk.flonk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday October 23, 2015 @03:01PM (#50789463) Homepage Journal

    Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Code.org quietly sent a letter to top education lawmakers in the House and Senate insisting that computer science "must" be added to the list of "core academic subjects" and states be given resources to improve STEM education programs.

    "We are starting to have to pay programmers real money," reads the letter. "We need more warm bodies in the market to drive salaries down."

    Echoing the last point at this month's Grace Hopper Women in Computer Celebration, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki called for mandatory computer science in schools, suggesting that boys â" like her own son â" are monopolizing the family computer across America, leaving girls â" like her own daughter â" out of the conversation when it comes to technology

    Ahhh, I was wondering what was so interesting about this post, it has some sexist bullshit. I dug down into there and got this tidbit:

    Wojcicki asked her why she didn't like computers.

    The answer went something like thisâ"her brother had "conquered" their one home computer. Also, it's lame.

    So there's two ways you could read that. Either "conquered" means that her brother was better than her at it, so she didn't feel like she could compete, and she had to be better than him. Or, he took it over, and she couldn't use it. Both of these are pretty stupid explanations, and either way comes down to failure as a parent to manage conflicts between her offspring, and have nothing to do with anyting else.

    The new round of hand-wringing comes as tech companies face the deadline for filing their 2015 EEO-1 surveys and seek more tech-friendly U.S. visa and OPT STEM policies, so it's probably worth remembering that Microsoft proposed tech could turn workforce diversity lemons into H-1B visa lemonade by connecting tech immigration to K-12 CS education.

    Microsoft and these other companies' only goal is to get cheaper labor. They don't care how they do it. H-1B is a means to an end to them, nothing more.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      As someone else said, I have a lot of trouble believing that a YouTube executive could not buy her daughter and son their own computers....

      Yes, in my house, I admit, we only had one computer and I used it most of the time.

      On the other hand, I was the one who asked for it, convinced my parents to get it and I paid for half of it. And back in the day $700 was no small feat for a fifteen year old making minimum wage when not in school.

      However, my sisters could use the computer, I just don't remember them bein

  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Friday October 23, 2015 @03:01PM (#50789467)

    Critical thinking when listening to politicians / Reading the news
    How the legal system actually works and what a citizen needs to know about it.
    Contracts and you.
    Basic rights of citizens and how not to be taken advantage of.
    What you need to know to start a business.

    Now arguably these would benefit everyone and not so much Google and Microsoft.

  • by mattventura ( 1408229 ) on Friday October 23, 2015 @03:02PM (#50789471) Homepage
    It's like they don't actually know the level of technology that most people know in a K-12 school. How do they plan to dump people straight into programming when most people's knowledge of the actual workings of a computer is nowhere near the point where they could program anything meaningful? You could probably ask the average person at a K-12 school a basic question like "What's a home directory?" and they wouldn't be able to answer it. I'm all for computer classes (my elementary school forced everyone to learn typing with a cloth over their hands so they couldn't hunt and peck) but suggesting that CS should be in K-12 schools is like saying that we should teach brain surgery in K-12 before we teach them what the different parts of a brain do.
    • In third grade we had an Apple II lab with about 1 machine to every 2 students, we did BASIC programming, woo hoo. In Jr. High we were offered LOGO, I took that and I didn't exactly become a programmer but at least I laid the foundations. If I'd had more support I'd have done more with that then. Only now (in my late thirties) am I getting into programming finally. Arduino FTW, I guess.

      $9 CHIP computers or $35 R-Pis hooked up to cheapest-possible LCD TVs can let every kid have their own computer to program.

      • The cool thing about Raspberry Pis is that they can be student owned and kept totally separate from the IT department.

        "It's electronics, go change the toner in the laserjet" is an appropriate answer if the IT Tech tries to interfere.

    • > CS should be in K-12 schools

      You think it's going to be Undergraduate CS? They're going to pitch it at the K-12 level.

      Stuff like Snap Circuits [amazon.com] isn't a BSEE. It's circuits for the kids.

      K-12 CS isn't figuring out O(n). It's getting kids exposed to it young. A lot of slashdotters talk about how they got into STEM, by programming young.

  • An increase in the amount of K-12 H1-B Indian children allowed for importation.
  • Lemons? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Friday October 23, 2015 @03:08PM (#50789505)
    "Alright, I've been thinking. When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade! Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don't want your damn lemons; what am I supposed to do with these? Demand to see life's manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I'm the man who's gonna burn your house down... with the lemons! I'm gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!'" Cave Johnson
  • How about this: we'll trade you [slashdot.org].

  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday October 23, 2015 @03:25PM (#50789607) Homepage Journal

    My guess is that if given a directive to teach "computer science" to all students, many schools will interpret that as "teach kids how to use a computer", meaning teach them to use e-mail, a spreadsheet, etc., plus maybe some "coding" (HTML). This seems to be what is in the "computer technology" classes my kids were forced into.

    Those seem like garbage classes to me.

    But... what should all people with a basic general education know about computer science?

    Programming? It wouldn't be bad, I suppose, but it seems overkill. The fundamentals of how a computer works seems like a good idea, the major pieces and parts. What I think would be really valuable is a basic understanding of what computers cannot do. A little information theory, maybe? Should that be part of a math class? As a security guy, I'd really like the general populace to understand entropy and randomness as they relate to passwords and other user authenticators, and something about how computer security really works... what a vulnerability, what is an exploit, what is a virus, what is malware, etc.

    What do you think an average high school graduate know about computer science and technology?

    • There needs to be a plan for framework on how to attract qualified professionals to decide the curriculum, and teach these courses. If it's left up to local administrators, they will have no idea where to begin or decide what needs to be taught. We'll end up with a generation of kids who have been using iPads since they were babies being taught how to use Microsoft Word 2004 and Powerpoint. If we allow a curriculum to be set nationally, then we'll find we have no teachers capable of teaching the subject. It
    • What do you think an average high school graduate know about computer science and technology?

      Programming.
      We already know how to teach high school kids how to program (look at Alan Kay's work, he's been researching that sort of thing for years). The problem is finding people who are qualified to teach it. Most people who are good at programming would rather not be a school teacher.

      • Why should an average high school graduate know how to program?
        • If you're going to teach kids computer science at all, programming is how you should do it.

          Teach them how to use the tools, and they will get confused when the UI changes. Teach them how to build the tools, and they'll be able to figure it out.

          There's no better way to understand how a computer works, and its limitations, than actually programming it.
          • The same could be said for hardware design. Make electronic design mandatory also.

            • For programmers, I think electronic design should be mandatory. At a minimum, you need to understand the AND/OR/NOT gate level.
              That stuff is less accessible though, I'm not sure it would be very practical to teach it at the high school level. Maybe make it an advanced level class, like calculus.
              • I think for programmers the hardware that should be mandatory is a basic computer architecture. It would be great if it could be discrete CPU/ROM/RAM/DecodeLogic/IO but that's a little ambitious in today's world. At a minimum an Arduino or some sort of small microcontroller.

                Gate level AND/OR/NOT is so low in scope that it just doesn't relate to the real world. Unless, I suppose, they're using AND/OR/NOT gates to construct adders and ALUs.

                • A lot of universities teach a one semester class where students build a computer out of TTL logic. That's not unreasonable, and lots of fun.
                  I say AND/OR/NOT gates, because that's kind of the bottom of the pile. Once you know how to build an AND gate, you can build it out of electronics, or water, or pretty near anything. [stackexchange.com] It's the point where the computer abstraction ends, and materials science begins.
          • There's no better way to understand how a computer works, and its limitations, than actually programming it.

            Sure, programming is sufficient, but is it necessary?

            • I don't think programming is necessary to be taught in high school, but I'm open to alternate viewpoints.

              If you're going to teach about computers after 5th grade though, programming ought to be taught.
              • After more reflection, I don't think teaching programming is either necessary or sufficient.

                Learning to program really doesn't teach you anything about either how computers actually work, or what their limitations are. I think a little bit of exposure to the EE stuff is needed, and some exposure to key bits of information theory and computability theory. With respect to information theory, I think everyone should have at least a basic understanding of encoding, entropy and compressibility, and of limits o

                • Learning to program really doesn't teach you anything about either how computers actually work, or what their limitations are.

                  It teaches you a lot about how they work....and gives you the tools to learn further. It's much better than a class that teaches Excel or Word, and not unreasonable.

                  I agree with you that programmers should know some EE stuff, and computability and information theory. I feel that is too advanced for high-school though.....if you wanted to teach CS in high school, it could be an AP class or something.

                  • Learning to program really doesn't teach you anything about either how computers actually work, or what their limitations are.

                    It teaches you a lot about how they work.

                    Maybe we have different definitions of "how they work".

                    It's much better than a class that teaches Excel or Word

                    We're in complete agreement there. Teaching specific tools is pointless and a waste of everyone's time.

                    and not unreasonable

                    That I'm not so sure about, unless you're talking about really, really basic programming. My experience teaching kids to program has shown me that there is a non-trivial minority that really, really struggle with being able to think through a problem and write a program. It's not because they're stupid, either, it's just a certain form of difficulty wi

                    • Maybe we have different definitions of "how they work".

                      Then let's say it differently.......it's how programs for the computer are built. There's a layer below it, but I think it's easiest to learn the higher level before going to the lower level (although the lower level is something every programmer should know).

                      That I'm not so sure about, unless you're talking about really, really basic programming. My experience teaching kids to program has shown me that there is a non-trivial minority that really, really struggle with being able to think through a problem and write a program.

                      Again, this is a topic Alan Kay has been researching for decades. If you want to understand how to do it, I'd look at his research.

                      It might be worth teaching kids programming because it would make them feel smart, give them the feeling of being in c

    • by Anonymous Coward

      My guess is that if given a directive to teach "computer science" to all students, many schools will interpret that as "teach kids how to use a computer", meaning teach them to use e-mail, a spreadsheet, etc., plus maybe some "coding" (HTML). This seems to be what is in the "computer technology" classes my kids were forced into.

      Those seem like garbage classes to me.

      But... what should all people with a basic general education know about computer science?

      Programming? It wouldn't be bad, I suppose, but it seems overkill. The fundamentals of how a computer works seems like a good idea, the major pieces and parts. What I think would be really valuable is a basic understanding of what computers cannot do. A little information theory, maybe? Should that be part of a math class? As a security guy, I'd really like the general populace to understand entropy and randomness as they relate to passwords and other user authenticators, and something about how computer security really works... what a vulnerability, what is an exploit, what is a virus, what is malware, etc.

      What do you think an average high school graduate know about computer science and technology?

      My guess is that if given a directive to teach "computer science" to all students, many schools will interpret that as "teach kids how to use a computer", meaning teach them to use e-mail, a spreadsheet, etc., plus maybe some "coding" (HTML). This seems to be what is in the "computer technology" classes my kids were forced into.

      Those seem like garbage classes to me.

      But... what should all people with a basic general education know about computer science?

      Programming? It wouldn't be bad, I suppose, but it seems overkill. The fundamentals of how a computer works seems like a good idea, the major pieces and parts. What I think would be really valuable is a basic understanding of what computers cannot do. A little information theory, maybe? Should that be part of a math class? As a security guy, I'd really like the general populace to understand entropy and randomness as they relate to passwords and other user authenticators, and something about how computer security really works... what a vulnerability, what is an exploit, what is a virus, what is malware, etc.

      What do you think an average high school graduate know about computer science and technology?

      How about high schools actually insure that their charges know how to read, write, perform basic math, understand deadlines and work ethic, and handle critical thinking, time management, and problem solving, before trying to fit CS/IT into the 6 hour day?

      UGH!

  • by jehan60188 ( 2535020 ) on Friday October 23, 2015 @03:25PM (#50789619)

    Google, Facebook, Microsoft need script-kiddies that they don't have to spend money training

    • This is the reason. High tech today is mostly low tech. They want technicians, not engineers. They want a work force resmebling modern assembly line workers. This is what the big push for CS is about, because it's not really CS that they're teaching but skills to use a computer.

    • They need Americans to translate the requirements for the H1Bs, fill out the TPS reports, and try to get the offshore devs to sling out code that isn't a total bug-ridden mess.

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      From what I've read, these companies are hyper-competitive and only accept the best. If anything, they're trying to flood the market to free up the best from smaller companies so they can hoard them.
  • sent a letter to top education lawmakers in the House and Senate

    K-12 education isn't a federal program, even if the Dept. of Education is a busybody. K-12 education works best when managed at the local level.

    insisting that computer science "must" be added to the list of "core academic subjects"

    Core subjects K-12 would be things like math, english, history and basic science.

    [insisting that] states be given resources to improve STEM education programs.

    Money grows on federal trees? Federal funding is lets the

    • Well if they mandated more math in high school it would go a long way.
      When I was in high school only 2 years of math was required and the math that most students took was geometry and then some sort of applied math class that taught you the basics of math that you would have used every day. So I would say have a class on logic and Boolean algebra, maybe some additional discrete math, or a general class on algorithms but beyond that most kids won't get anything out of it.

      I like to jokingly tell people tha
  • Stop hiring h1b's and lower college costs

  • FFS what a mountain of bullshit!

    My family of 7 probably survives on less than she spends on lunches and we still have one screen per person.

    If your child has a bad attitude to anything it is because you are a bad parent, not because of anything your son does.
  • boys — like her own son — are monopolizing the family computer across America

    There is an easy fix: buy a second computer. I am certain the CEO of Youtube can afford that.

  • What's wrong with Susan Wojcicki? Surely she can afford enough computing devices for everyone in her family. What a case of messed up priorities.
  • Google, Facebook, Microsoft deliver K-12 demands

    "I want my two dollars!"

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