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Education Programming United States IT

Chicago Public Schools Make Computer Science a Requirement For a HS Diploma 209

theodp writes: Less than 48 hours after the Chicago Public Schools hosted a three-hour "soiree" at Google's brand-new Chicago HQ, the CPS Board of Education voted unanimously to make computer science a graduation requirement for all high school students in the nation's third largest school district. Starting with next school year's freshman class, CPS students will be required to complete curriculum around computer science before graduating. "Requiring computer science as a core requirement will ensure that our graduates are proficient in the language of the 21st century so that they can compete for the jobs of the future," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. CPS is working with tech bankrolled and led Code.org and other organizations to further develop a CS education curriculum to implement across all its high schools. Nationwide, President Obama has a $4B proposal on the table to bring CS education to all K-12 schools across the nation, which is also spurring action at the state level, Officials from Code.org, Microsoft and Google joined Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee at the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington D.C. on Sunday to kick off a new partnership aimed at promoting CS. The new GovsForCS website notes that the Governors will be relying on Code.org for advice, explaining that the nonprofit "will provide the Partnership with resources related to best practices in policy and programs, and will facilitate collaboration among Governors and their staff, in person and virtually."
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Chicago Public Schools Make Computer Science a Requirement For a HS Diploma

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  • by Big Hairy Ian ( 1155547 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @10:36AM (#51582065)
    The problem with this is that Computer Science will likely go though another paradigm shift within the next decade. Never mind what ALM the MBA's will be spouting in 10 years. But maths and English will likely be the same.
    • Math has gone through several major changes too.
      • Yes but until you start hitting calculus relatively little has changed in the last 100 years. Whereas in computer science 10 years ago most programmers we're developing either for the web or for desktop. Twenty years ago most programmers were either developing for a desktop computer or for a multi user system with dumb terminals and a few people were looking at this new internet thing and scratching their heads. 30 years ago Mini, Mainframe & Mag tapes.

        And I haven't even mentioned the differences i

        • Most of the core of computer science is the same as it was 50 years ago, at least. The core of logic, graph theory, game theory, and complexity theory has not changed. Even object orientation (which is more software engineering than computer science) is an idea that dates back to the late '60s. Smalltalk 71 first language to be explicitly designed to support object orientation (so just misses the 50 year window), but Alan Kay had been using the ideas in Lisp earlier.
      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        *cough* Harvard Calculus *cough*

        http://www.math.harvard.edu/~knill/pedagogy/harvardcalculus/ [harvard.edu]

    • The problem with this is that Computer Science will likely go though another paradigm shift within the next decade. Never mind what ALM the MBA's will be spouting in 10 years. But maths and English will likely be the same.

      CS hasn't changed all that much since the 60's if you ask me. Yea, we've added one new way to program (Object Oriented) to the mix, but even that wasn't all that huge of a paradigm shift, but more of a formalization of some existing best practices. Sure the names have changed and syntax varies, but conceptually CS is not different. We still face the same kinds of problems.

      Don't believe me? Read "The Mythical Man Month" by Fredrik R. Brooks. This book is 4 decades old, yet still relevant to Computer Scien

      • Bear in mind I date back to the days when the most important piece of equipment in the IT department was the little wooden column you used to wind the paper tape around. Are you sure not much has changed?
        • Bear in mind I date back to the days when the most important piece of equipment in the IT department was the little wooden column you used to wind the paper tape around. Are you sure not much has changed?

          Oh the hardware has changed a lot, but the basic problems facing CS folks remain the same. The mechanics of what we do have changed, but the concepts haven't. I date back to the thumb switch modifications of boot loaders and core memory myself, but designing, writing and debugging programs still use the same analytical skills, even if editing your source no longer involves shuffling through a deck of cards.

        • by yacc143 ( 975862 )

          In IT much has changed.

          In CS not so much has changed. And the changes that we are seeing are less breakthroughs as such, it's just that the hardware has changed drastically, so things that were just unthinkable two decades ago, are trivial enough.

          Just think, the MicroSD card in my mobile today, has a capacity that is a million times higher than the floppies that my first computer used.
          The cpu in my mobile has more cpu cache than my first PC had memory.
          The cpu in my laptop has slightly less cache than the si

      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        CS hasn't changed all that much since the 60's if you ask me.

        Computer programming has changed quite a bit. During my first tour through college in the early 1990's to learn general education, C++ was the teaching language of the day. During my second tour of college in the early 2000's to learn computer programming, all flavors of Java was taught since the college couldn't afford to renew the Microsoft site license. These days I hear Python is a popular teaching language.

        • I learned Pascal and C in college, but I contend that the analytical skills used by a computer programmer haven't changed, even though the mechanics of how you accomplish these things has. There have been a lot of "Style" changes over the decades, but how the programing sausage is made hasn't changed.

          Read the book.. Trust me.. You will see what I mean.

        • by yacc143 ( 975862 )

          And how does that make Computer Science change? Just because our cars today move so much faster, have commonly air condition, and so on, does not mean that the physics has changed in the last century.

          I think the great misunderstanding is that Computer Science is named as it is, so many people think that it's only about computers. And the second problem is that US institutions have been, at least at the B.Sc. level been very "practice" oriented, which sounds initially a good idea, but is actually a bad idea.

          • by creimer ( 824291 )

            Just because our cars today move so much faster, have commonly air condition, and so on, does not mean that the physics has changed in the last century.

            Actually, the physics have changed quite a bit for cars. Anyone can build a Model A with the right machining tools. No one can build a modern car without wind tunnels, lightweight materials and crash dummies.

    • The big problem is it's a normalizing strategy.

      Education isn't a universally good idea; it depends on how you define education. Currently, we're trying to define education as "job skills" and not as "general knowledge," and so we call College "education" and ignore K-12. With eyes back on K-12, we're placating the masses by folding job skills into K-12 curriculum and calling it education.

      That's all abstract. It's great politics.

      More directly: we should teach students how to use their fucking brain

  • When I was a Senior (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Not-a-Neg ( 743469 ) * on Thursday February 25, 2016 @10:37AM (#51582069)

    When I was a Senior in High School (1996), I already had 2 computers and a BBS, surprisingly when a teacher asked the class who had a computer at home only myself and one other student did. The teacher was trying to make the class realize that computers were going to be critical to their future careers but it largely fell on deaf ears. The only mandatory computer "training" the school required of students was for them to write an English paper using WordPerfect in the computer lab. Most students wrote the majority of their papers either with pen and paper or using a typewriter. Some would use a computer in the library to type and print out their reports but only a few did. While going to college over the next 3 years things quickly progressed to the point that one student was asking if she could bring her laptop into the classroom to type notes and the students having a fit about the "loud typing" distracting them.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Interesting story. I was in high school in the 1980s. I had a physics class which I quite liked. We had to prepare a lab report after doing some basic electrostatics stuff. The teacher wanted us to start the paper in class, by hand naturally. Me, I waited to get home and start typing it up on GEOS. So I handed it this crazy printed report with clip art graphics and charts. Yeah, I went all out. My reward?

      Teacher dinged me by 1 point because my in-class work was lacking.... I learned that being good is not w

    • by creimer ( 824291 )

      Most students wrote the majority of their papers either with pen and paper or using a typewriter.

      I was in college during the early 1990's. Most instructors wouldn't accept dot matrix printouts (not even Near Letter Quality) and I couldn't afford the $200 parallel interface to turn my electronic typewriter into a printer. All my term papers were done on the typewriter. Things changed when the library got Macs and charged 10 cents a page to use the laser printer.

      • I was in college during the early 1990's. Most instructors wouldn't accept dot matrix printouts (not even Near Letter Quality) and I couldn't afford the $200 parallel interface to turn my electronic typewriter into a printer.

        You never heard of Daisy Wheel?

        • by creimer ( 824291 )

          You never heard of Daisy Wheel?

          My electronic typewriter had a daisy wheel. If I had $200 at the time, I could have bought the parallel interface to turn it into daisy wheel printer.

  • by rlp ( 11898 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @10:39AM (#51582085)

    Chicago public schools have a graduation rate of below 70%. They'd be better off making sure their students had a grasp of fundamental skills than adding additional CS requirements to graduation.

    • They'd be better off making sure their students had a grasp of fundamental skills than adding additional CS requirements to graduation.

      How is CS not a fundamental skill?

      • They'd be better off making sure their students had a grasp of fundamental skills than adding additional CS requirements to graduation.

        How is CS not a fundamental skill?

        It's not. Why don't you instead try to make the argument that it *is*.

        Most of the people that I know have no idea how to program a computer and, frankly, it wouldn't make their life any better if they did. And, bluntly, most of them couldn't do it, anyway.

        I came to make the same point as the grandparent - they'd be far better off spending the money keeping kids in school and teaching them the basics rather than driving even more kids out of school.

  • They will go away in a few years.
  • How much is Google making charging the schools for textbooks and other teaching materials off this?

  • by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @10:49AM (#51582177)
    If we only followed Chicago's example of progressive government for the people and by the people, we would have eliminated inequality, police violence, high homicide rates, failing schools, and corruption across the nation long ago! Why can't people see that???
  • Think of how many people are terrified of math, and struggle with basic arithmetic. Now they're going to make these people take an intro to programming course. They will hate computers as much as they hate math.

    Maybe Chicago schools should focus on literacy and arithmetic before they start requiring everyone to program.

  • by r2rknot ( 1102517 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @11:13AM (#51582437)

    They would focus on math more. In particular, they would focus on financial math. In this class, they would be taught why credit cards are not doing them any favors. How compound interest works, how to create a budget you will actually follow. How to estimate your expenses. What the local cost of living index is, and why they should look it up for an area they want to work in. What a ROI is, and if certain fields of education have, on average, a good ROI for the education they require.

    That would help ensure they are competitive in the workplace.

    not

    int main (){

    cout "Hellow World";

    return 0;

    }

    Because knowing it works won't do anyone any favors. Know HOW it works might help - but will probably be out of the scope of any HS level class.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Actually, they should focus kids on math, science, and the liberal arts. It does a company or government no good to hire Joe Star Programmer who knows zilch about anything but programming. Joe Star being unable to communicate in clear sentences and well-thought out paragraphs will cause havoc. Joe Star with no science background is plain useless in any lab. Joe Star who cannot, using the correct math skills, attack a technical problem outside of programming isn't useful to anyone other than a software house

    • by yacc143 ( 975862 )

      You forgot <<

  • by the_skywise ( 189793 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @11:13AM (#51582439)

    Or any major field of science like Biology, Chemistry, etc;

    Calculus?

    "Oh, not all students are smart enough to handle those subjects."

    But they're smart enough for Computer Science? Do students really need to know how to design a new sorting algorithm? Understand what O(n) means (oops, there's that advanced math again...) Or does "computer science" mean learning them thar kids to program and make purty web pages. That's fine but that's a TRADE skill, not a SCIENCE skill just like industrial design, typesetting and auto-mechanics.

    • Wut? In what school district is science not a requirement? My public school district required, um, I think three years of science, and the choices were pre-biology, biology, chemistry, and physics. That means biology and one of chem or phys was required. I haven't called around but I'm pretty sure that's typical, practically universal.

      • by creimer ( 824291 )

        In what school district is science not a requirement?

        Special Ed. I had the misfortune of being a well-behaved idiot for eight years in Special Ed because I got declared mentally retarded due to an undiagnosed hearing loss in one ear in kindergarten. After I graduated from the eighth grade, I skipped high school and spent four years at the community college (two years for remedial courses, two years for associate degree). I technically should not have graduated but a counselor figured that intro electronics could substitute for biology with lab.

  • by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @11:17AM (#51582487)

    In ancient times, when I was a compsci major, Computer Science meant stuff like "Analysis of Algorithms."

    As I understand it, today Comp Sci 101 might be learning MS-Office.

    Programming also seems to have a different meaning. I am not sure that clicking on something, to change the color of a cartoon cat, is what I would call "programming." It may help with learning to use a computer, but not really programming.

  • Neat-o. My (public) high school required it too.

    I graduated in 1995.

    Color me unimpressed.

  • This is the school system where less than 25% of high school graduates exit in a college-ready state. And even then, most of those need remedial courses.

    And they want to start teaching CS?

    So, what? They're going to dumb it down to the "Magic Smoke" principle?

    CPS has MORE than enough problems as it is. Shoddy funding. Shoddy teachers (though not all of them are shoddy by any means). Shoddy facilities.

    They can barely teach reading, writing and arithmetic!

    This is basically a waste of time, money, and thes

  • I thought that an intro to computers class was a state requirement in Illinois. I had this as a high school sophomore back in the 1980s. It was just a nine-week class that covered BASIC programming on TRS-80 computers.
  • by GlobalEcho ( 26240 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @11:54AM (#51582979)

    Many posters here are asking what "use" the curriculum could reasonably be expected to have for the students. They are taking the wrong perspective.

    As with math classes, chemistry classes, and even literature classes, the point of this would be to have students graduate with a general awareness of how the world works. Those who need a professional level of understanding will almost all enjoy deeper subject material in college.

    Here on Slashdot, we often bemoan how the average citizen is uninformed about security, how business managers don't understand why some problems are hard (http://xkcd.com/1425/), and what sorts of things coders need to think about. A class like this is aimed at mitigating those problems.

    • Sounds good, but when you put CS in the curriculum something else has to go out.
      • Fair point. As a mathematician it pains me to say this but I would suggest replacing requirements for trig and geometry with requirements for statistics and computer science. So, of course, as the trig and geometry classes remain available for STEM-loving students to add back in.

  • ... in addition to not getting shot?

  • Chicago is what many would call another failed city. Chicago has huge problems. Someone is shot in Chicago every three hours. They have numerous youth who need to be taught to use a knife and fork, not to shoot or stab others, and hopefully not to stick needles full of dope in their veins. For so many students, they are lucky to be potty trained before leaving high school. It is nice to provide computer science for human students but it will only further the vast rebellion - drop out rate, of the
  • Either they're going to have to set the bar really low, or their graduation rates are going to plummet. Some people just aren't that good at algorithmic thinking.
  • "Computer Science" is defined as "Using Microsoft Word"

  • If my grandpa didn't need to know about computers, then why do my kids?

    Oh probably because we educated grandpa to work in coal mines and we don't really want our kids to work in coal mines. Okay, carry on then.

  • The best method that I had previously heard for this was to replace trigonometry with a programming class. This would allow students to first understand solving equations in algebra or possibly algebra 2 then study a simple programming language ( Python would be the best one at the moment in my opinion). And programming would teach more complex equation solving skills. But most previous opinions that I have heard on this say it would be an optional replacement for trigonometry.

    This just seems stupid to m

  • Let me preface this with the fact that school taxes are already overwhelming so any reply based on the premise "increase the school tax" is not acceptable.

    How are schools going to acquire computers without increasing school taxes? Donation of used computers? Due to industry theft concerns, few corporations donate their used computers anymore. Donation of new computers? This would be a HUGE incentive for Micro$oft to brainwash a nation of impressionable high school graduates into the Windows-centric w

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