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Education Government Programming Politics

WSJ: New Education Bill To Get More Coding In Classrooms 88

theodp writes: The WSJ's Yoree Koh reports that computer science has been recognized as important an academic subject as math and English in the new Every Student Succeeds Act, putting it on equal footing with other subjects when state and local policymakers decide how to dole out federal funds. The law is likely to be a boon for tech companies, Koh adds, which constantly face a shortage of engineers to hire, and have backed Code.org to lobby for computer science teaching in schools. "This legislation will increase access to STEM and computer science learning nationwide and will advance some of the goals outlined in Microsoft's National Talent Strategy," said Microsoft in a blog post. "ESSA makes a number of significant improvements to expand access to computer science education by diverse populations in urban, suburban, and rural areas," explained the ACM. As far as CS and STEM goes, the bill calls for "increasing access for students through grade 12 who are members of groups underrepresented in such subject fields, such as female students, minority students, English learners, children with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students."
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WSJ: New Education Bill To Get More Coding In Classrooms

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  • WSJ is an anagram of SJW. Coincidence? I think not.

    • by Z80a ( 971949 )

      I don't think they would use a derogatory term on purpose like that.
      Its like if google named itself with some terrible obviously evil name like Evil corp or Microsoft search.

    • They're also owned by Rupert Murdoch who's on the opposite end of the spectrum of the people who tend to complain about a lack of minorities in computing fields. I suppose they both tend to be authoritarian twats, but I doubt you'd catch anyone that far to the left touching anything of Murdoch's unless they're going to toss it on a fire.
    • by creimer ( 824291 )
      Ronald Wilson Reagan contains six letters each (666). Coincidence?
      • I can't work out whether it's a coincidence or not. I'm too shocked about seeing a post from you that isn't about how hard you had it because you left school without a GED.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If this was approached with the same rigor that we teach calculus or chemistry then perhaps it could be okay.

    But it seems more likely to turn into "create another generation locked into proprietary tools". And instead of teaching (a) CS theory and (b) machine architecture so that people can understand things independent of any particular language or tools, we'll turn it into another "memorize and regurgitate" exercise, where kids will forget everything just after the class because they never really underst

    • by hughbar ( 579555 )
      Yes, in the UK, the big suppliers are elbowing their way into this, too. I am a volunteer and, as such, attended a Google education presentation where 'everything is free and stored in the cloud'. Then the BBC, which should be independent are cooperating with Microsoft on the abysmal 'micro-bit', who have also shoehorned a version of Windows 10 in the newest Pi.

      Actual computer science is giving way to 'pseudo certification' even in the part of London university where I am studying. Ironically, though I'm
      • Actual computer science is giving way to 'pseudo certification' even in the part of London university where I am studying.

        A former polytechnic, I suspect.

        • by hughbar ( 579555 )
          Nope, wish it was, but it's part of the original university but for mature students (that will let you guess, begins with B). I offered to do a couple of talks, read through the syllabus (to make sure I wasn't duplicating) and was disappointed/appalled. Same thing for (admittedly, sample of one) MSc guy I talked to, not masters level 'stuff'. I expect/hope UCL etc. is a lot better.
  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Sunday December 13, 2015 @10:19AM (#51109497) Journal

    The government has two major initiatives in computer science:

    A) They've finally realized we're WAY behind in "cybersecurity" and it's costing us billions every year. The percentage of code written by people who don't actually know what they're doing isn't just an economic problem; it's turning into a national security issue.

    B) They've decided to teach EVERYONE how to write a bit of code, without really understanding what they're doing.

    If this were the 1980s and we were still primarily using Disk Operating System to run software on our Personal computers, (B) might be okay. People would be learning just enough to screw up their files on their floppy. We're not using DOS anymore. It's now web apps used over the internet. The "coders" who don't understand are writing web services in .Net and PHP scripts which they put on the internet, where they are attacked constantly.

    The consequences of improperly designed software systems have increased 10,000 fold. A little knowledge is truly a dangerous thing when writing software for the internet. We don't need every worker publishing their own little poorly-designed web api to their part of the company database that they wrote in Excel and published from via Access. We need to recognize this is dangerous to other people, including customers, so we need it done better, by people who choose to specialize in the field. Designing software systems (for the internet) isn't so much like reading and writing English, it's more like designing buildings. You want it done right much more than you want it done by everyone.

    • I've worked with enough developers, and fixed their mistakes, to know that while getting all of these people writing scripts is going to be a pain the real problem (and cost to society) is bad developers. I was on the maintenance team at a government department that had a development group with about 10 people. The best person had to rewrite a C app, which they had originally created, into Java. When we got the app for testing, we also did the admin work for the production apps, it was missing a major fe

    • So your argument is "We have yet to have formal training for the population at large in how to operate computers and it's resulted in really poorly written scripts. So the solution is certainly to not give the population at large formal training". I believe the counter argument is that if the population at large was given formal training, that the probability of someone writing a poor script would be less because people would have learned their lesson in making poor mistakes in school.
    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      The consequences of improperly designed software systems have increased 10,000 fold. A little knowledge is truly a dangerous thing when writing software for the internet. We don't need every worker publishing their own little poorly-designed web api to their part of the company database that they wrote in Excel and published from via Access.

      Of course we do! What we need is tools that make this OK. For example, in exactly the sort of environment you describe, if "constructing a SQL query by appending text" is disallowed, by having a DB API that just doesn't accept raw text, and you have to assemble everything using LINQ parts, you're magically free from DB injection attacks.

      People who know just a bit of scripting aren't looking to put together a web API from raw components, they want a simple framework using tools they already understand. Th

      • It'd be lovely to have magical tools that guess what the clueless user wants to do, guess what's safe to do with that data, and guess how to do it safely (instead of trained people who know which data is safe to publish, and how).

        It would also be lovely to have robot doctors and nurses which cost nothing and can therefore provide medical care for free.

        It would be lovely to have a kumbaya song that magically makes everyone in the world love each other and get along splendidly.

        However, Mr. Obama, none of thos

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          It'd be lovely to have magical tools that guess what the clueless user wants to do, guess what's safe to do with that data, and guess how to do it safely (instead of trained people who know which data is safe to publish, and how).

          It's not that hard, for common attacks. Injection attacks are caused by using text assembly to build commands (or build XML), so just don't provide that, or at least don't documents it and focus on query-building components and so on. Attacks on the web code itself, like cross-site scripting and so on, that's the publishing framework. No need for the scripter to even be involved there. Not sure what you mean by data that's safe to "publish".

          • Parameterized queries are certainly a good thing. They help prevent a class of attacks that are common today. You may recall not long ago buffer overflows were the most common vulnerability. The strncpy set of functions were introduced to eliminate that, and newer languages like PHP and Perl have strings that know their own length, so the common types of overflows aren't possible in PHP. Since PHP isn't vulnerable to the issues which were common in C programs, it's a safe, idiot-proof language and you can't

            • by lgw ( 121541 )

              Ah, I see what you mean about "safe to publish". That's not a security flaw, though, in the way people usually mean that, but a lack of design oversight. Sure, no toolchain can fix broken-by-design.

              I don't think anyone has made a web page in C this century, and most PHP problems are about "cleaning input" AFAIK, which is a bad strategy to begin with. I was thinking more of your example of the VBA world, automating Excel and Access and the like, where MS actually provides pretty good tooling these days t

  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Sunday December 13, 2015 @10:20AM (#51109499)

    A marked-up document [stemedcoalition.org] (.docx) from July on the website of the STEM Education Coalition [stemedcoalition.org], which counts Microsoft as a member, seems to attribute the enrichment eligibility criteria clause to NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand [staticflickr.com]. Last year, Gillibrand said [wrvo.org], "Typically, in STEM fields, science, technology, engineering and math, it's typically white men. Very few women, very few minorities, very few from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. So we want to change that."

    • by kenh ( 9056 )

      in STEM fields, science, technology, engineering and math, it's typically white men. Very few women, very few minorities, very few from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

      Trying to wrap my brain around this statement when large corporations are terminating their old, white, predominantly male workforce for imported coders from India and Pakistan slums under the H-1B visa program...

      • Not to mention the fact that I'm a white man who came from a very economically disadvantaged background. They are not mutually exclusive, except in the eyes of SJWs.
  • "...computer science has been recognized as important an academic subject as math and English..."

    So the plan would be to neglect it utterly, ensuring that graduating students can hardly tell an iPad from an abacus? If, as we have been told, ignorance is strength, they might as well double down.

  • how about... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nerdyalien ( 1182659 ) on Sunday December 13, 2015 @10:55AM (#51109563)

    skills that are practically useful in life, such as

    1. Self reliance (how to cook, how to do minor repair works around house, etc)
    2. Think broadly (do projects that encompasses everything from planning, prototyping, executing, teamwork etc.)
    3. Financial management
    4. Driving (it is better to start young, see Finland)
    5. Surviving outdoors (you never know when you gonna need it)
    6. Interacting face-to-face
    7. Objective thinking (so that they won't fall into sound-bites of politicians)

    I do not foresee "coding" will help anyone in the broader spectrum. Perhaps, it can liberate few talented coders who would've gone to another field. Other than you enter into an STEM career; quite unlikely "coding" will help you survive.

    Something peripheral: "coding" projects will only succeed because of other skills i.e planning, team work, communication etc; not because of your "coding" skills it self.

    • I'd add that knowing how to find out things and an enjoyment of knowledge. Not just how to Google, though I know a number of people that have problems expressing themselves in order to find out what they want. There are so many ways to gain knowledge other than going to school or reading books. And being able to learn for yourself self reliance becomes so much easier. You can learn new recipes or how to do your own home improvements.

    • 1. Self reliance (how to cook, how to do minor repair works around house, etc)

      Umm... parents?

      2. Think broadly (do projects that encompasses everything from planning, prototyping, executing, teamwork etc.)

      Doing those projects sounds exactly like doing a programming homework assignment.

      3. Financial management

      I don't see how teaching programming would draw away from this.

      4. Driving (it is better to start young, see Finland)

      Why? the computers do it so much better than humans.

      5. Surviving outdoors (you never know when you gonna need it)

      Umm, never?

      6. Interacting face-to-face

      That can be part of every school subject, and would be really boring as a stand alone school subject.

      7. Objective thinking (so that they won't fall into sound-bites of politicians)

      You realize that it's education majors who are teaching these classes, right?

    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

      I do not foresee "coding" will help anyone in the broader spectrum. Perhaps, it can liberate few talented coders who would've gone to another field.

      I'm from the UK and took a "gap year" to teach maths and computing to 9th through 12th graders in India in 1992-1993. Back in the UK I've also taught 5th graders with special needs, and supervised computer science and philosophy to undergraduates and graduates.

      I think coding will help an ENORMOUS portion of people to become better citizens. When they're reviewing mortgage or credit card or car purchase stuff, or maybe sometimes even national budget stuff, they'll be more ready to open up a spreadsheet and t

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Coding is a useful skill. It teaches logical thinking and problem solving.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      It really depends on the coding language. Properly done, the coding language simply becomes a part of teaching language, mathematics, physics and chemistry. Done arse about face without a uniform teaching coding language and you have shit. Imagine this kind of bullshit with mathematics, not one formula system but hundreds of commercial for profit patented formula systems, oh yeah, teaching maths would be easy. Again doing the moronic thing with teaching language, not one dictionary or grammar system but hu

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How about we increase funding for music and the arts in schools? Aren't there benefits to that when it comes to learning?

  • I thought there could be no program name worse than "No Child Left Behind"

    I was wrong. So, so wrong.

    I wonder though, how are they going to tackle the girls discouraging other girls aspect of social interaction?

    That never seems to be addressed. Instead we get these incredibly weak examples of male based microagressions that work to prove the exact wrong thing about women.

    Where a Playboy model's face or building's air conditioning system manages to turn passionate science minded women away from that s

  • We will get the common core crap for coding and further encourage kids to stay away.

    instead of

    10 print " hello"
    20 goto 10

    we will get...

    COME FROM 10
    10 TELL "hello" NEXT

    Because educators today need to be beaten with a sack of doorknobs until they understand that convolution is not education.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Education is about learning to learn and making citizens.
    That means learning to think and having enough basics so you don't have to start with the stone age to learn something new.
    Reading, writing, and arithmetic are the first on the list.
    Self study/research skills, higher math, literature, and basic science are second.
    Computer programmin

  • It's computer programming. "Science" would imply that you know how the computer works. You have to know physics, basic electricity and somewhat advanced mathematics (at the very least logic tables). Otherwise you're just a key puncher, doing rote work.

    • "Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes." -- Edsger Dijkstra
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If there's one thing you don't want, it's mandatory, curriculum-based
    computing programming in schools. Unsolicited instruction in any
    subject reduces interest in the subject being taught. Look at science.
    Inherently interesting, but people get less interested in it as their
    schooling goes on. I'm aware of at least one paper (Adolescents'
    declining motivation to learn science) that squarely implicates being
    taught by others in schools as being the cause of this. Not that you
    should need a paper to tell you that.

    Ot

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Put all the old home computers of the 80's back into the classrooms. Turn on and you're instantly ready to start entering code. Somewhere along the line, the user lost direct and absolute control of their PCs and have to rely on someone else's "apps".

    • This. What a bare prompt and simple interactive language provide is a nearly-zero experience threshold for initial engagement. Especially for the first touch and the next dozen or so, those environments are far less likely to make a student's early experiences be failures.

      I have thought that Python could perform the same role. Like BASIC it is easy to get the first interactions right. It also has the advantage of being durably useful as the student progresses, unlike the "whizzy" environments, Scratch for

  • by matbury ( 3458347 ) on Sunday December 13, 2015 @12:42PM (#51109873) Homepage

    By pandering to a minority of corporations, the Dpt. of Ed. is converting the US education system into a training programmes for idiot workers in dead-end jobs that'll soon be off-shored to subcontractors in developing countries with lower operating costs. The real advantage that the USA has is an excellent education system* that cultivates independent, critical, and creative thinkers who can then go on to learn just about anything they want and make excellent team-workers, project managers, and problem solvers.
     
    *If you control for poverty, which is the biggest issue in US educational outcomes, the US consistently scores at the top of international tables but doesn't suffer as much from the negative effects of test-oriented curricula, despite the Dpt. of Ed.'s best efforts in the last decade or so.

  • A shortage happens when something isn't priced high enough. In this case, there isn't a lack of talent, but rather the wages being offered are too low, and so people choose other careers. Raise wages and the labour pool will follow.
    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      You can't price starting wages high because the signal to noise ratio is too horrible. Everyone will apply for the high paying job. Try placing an ad for $150k/year just to find out your new hire is only worth $50k after the 2 year learning curve and a $200k+ loss. Start them low and raise them quickly as they show promise.
  • By elevating Computer Science to the same level as other major areas of study (English, History, Science, Math, etc.) and *NOT* increasing the school year, what topics in which subjects will they cut back on to make room in the limited school day to accommodate a brand-new major topic of study?

    Of course, I am assuming that "Computer Science" means something more than Computer Application usage - that they will be learning about computer science, not how to make a newsletter in Microsoft Word...

  • by pestilence669 ( 823950 ) on Sunday December 13, 2015 @06:49PM (#51111231)
    The idea that you can even teach coding in classrooms where students continue to fail basic literacy, let alone mathematics, is absurd. Fix the core curriculum first before adding more certain failure.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not to mention coding is wasted on a vast majority of people - they either don't have the aptitude or the interest for it. The salaries might be pretty good but holding a conversation about coding with any non-coder will never go down well. You might as well try to talk particle physics with some guy in a bar. It's all too abstract and has limited application beyond sitting in front of a computer and typing code.

      The biggest driver for code right now is ever-changing standards. All the interesting stuff has

  • since none of these idiots seems to understand "shortage" means the price is below an equilibrium value.

What this country needs is a good five cent microcomputer.

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