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Education Programming Software United States Science

The College Board Pushes To Make Computer Science a High School Graduation Requirement 132

theodp writes: Education Week reports that the College Board wants high schools to make it mandatory for students to take computer science before they graduate. The call came as the College Board touted the astonishing growth in its Advanced Placement (AP) computer science courses, which was attributed to the success of its new AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) class, a "lite" alternative to the Java-based AP CS A course. "The College Board is willing to invest serious resources in making this viable -- much more so than is in our economic interest to do so," said College Board President David Coleman. "To governors, legislators, to others -- if you will help us make this part of the life of schools, we will help fund it."

Just two days before Coleman's funds-for-compulsory-CS offer, Education Week cast a skeptical eye at the tech sector's role in creating a tremendous surge of enthusiasm for K-12 CS education. Last spring, The College Board struck a partnership with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative with a goal of making AP CSP available in every U.S. school district. Also contributing to the success of the College Board's high school AP CS programs over the years has been tech-bankrolled Code.org, as well as tech giants Microsoft and Google. The idea of a national computer programming language requirement for high school students was prominently floated in a Google-curated Q&A session with President Obama (video) following the 2013 State of the Union address.
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The College Board Pushes To Make Computer Science a High School Graduation Requirement

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  • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @06:41PM (#56178821)
    There is a difference between Compute Science and computer skills. All students should have computer skills, but not all need computer science.
    • Teaching children how to write a program – Software Development – would be far better IMO, and it's a little more specific than "computer skillz".

      Then if that piques their curiosity––

    • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @06:47PM (#56178859)

      Math isn't for everyone. We have a math requirement.

      English isn't for everyone. We have an English requirement.

      Government, biology, physics, chemistry, foreign languages, etc aren't for everyone either. But it's a requirement of HS to give people exposure to them.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        So if these are not for everyone, why force students to take something that won't help them. Or is HS now just ideological preening (what you call exposure).

      • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @07:05PM (#56178953)

        Everything you say is true. However, anybody with a quality liberal arts education can see the value in those things. Besides, not long ago Greek, Latin, and Classics were considered requirements. Today they are not.

        I would argue that anyone proposing making computer science a hard requirement should have to explain how computer science contributes to a broad-based liberal arts education. For reference, here is a quote from Dijkstra [wikiquote.org] on the topic:

        As a result, the topic became â" primarily in the USA â" prematurely known as âcomputer scienceâ(TM) â" which, actually, is like referring to surgery as âknife scienceâ(TM) â" and it was firmly implanted in peopleâ(TM)s minds that computing science is about machines and their peripheral equipment.

        That is not to say that it wouldn't be handy to have courses on computing and computer programming. However, many high schools also have courses in automotive maintenance, wood shop, welding, and other trades. None of those are anywhere close to being considered hard requirements for high school graduation, despite the fact that nearly every person in the use drives an automobile on a daily basis, for example. The flavor computer science being advocated by the College Board is closer to automotive maintenance than it is to a core liberal arts subject.

      • The arbitrary technical knowledge required for all of those things is nothing like with computer science. There is no valid comparison. All the things you mentioned are abstract and largely independent of technical procedure.

      • What exactly is the requirement? I keep seeing kids graduate from high school without Math or English skills.

      • Math isn't for everyone. We have a math requirement.

        English isn't for everyone. We have an English requirement.

        Government, biology, physics, chemistry, foreign languages, etc aren't for everyone either. But it's a requirement of HS to give people exposure to them.

        Mechanics isn't for everyone, we don't have a mechanics requirement.
        Robotics isn't for everyone, we don't have a robotics requirement.
        Cosmetics isn't for everyone, we don't have a cosmetics requirement.
        Journalism isn't for everyone, we don't have a journalism requirement

        Foreign languages are not required. Exposure vs. required are two different things.

      • Even if you don't major in math, you will find it useful from time to time in life.
        Even if you don't major in English, you will find it useful from time to time in life.
        Even if you don't work in government, you will find knowledge of civics useful from time to time in life.
        Even if you don't major in biology, you will find knowledge of it useful from time to time in life.
        Physics and chemistry are electives in most high schools, not required.
        Even if you don't major in a foreign language, you will find it
        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          Actually, a lot of people could do a lot better giving and acting on step by step instructions. Perhaps a little experience with computer programming might help. Binary decision trees and searches would be good experience as well.

      • by bussdriver ( 620565 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @07:57PM (#56179285)

        Math skills are necessary to life. Education is NOT only about employment!

        A functioning democracy REQUIRES a basic education for the people to be able to rule themselves and do some critical thinking. The REAL reason you need free public education is because it is a fundamental requirement for a healthy democracy. You may not have a functional democracy anymore, but you can not keep one without it.

        Critical thinking, ethics, and civics are infinitely more important to bring back for the sake of democracy, society and possibly even humanity itself. We did not get to where we are today by evolution - there is nothing separating us from primitive societies 10,000 years ago except the momentum of society progressing forward.

        If you want some basic CS conceptual coverage, integrate some of that into a better MATH education. People who are good at math have an easier time picking up CS (especially the real classic CS which IS math! CS started out from the math dept in most places.)

      • Math isn't for everyone, which is why the math requirement stops at rudimentary algebra and geometry. No state in the union requires differential or integral calculus or complex analysis for graduation.

        English isn't for everyone, which is why the English requirements stop at a few classic authors and the rudiments of a five paragraph essay. I went to a pretty good school and took AP English Lit and English Comp and the longest essay I ever had to write in high school was ten pages, 12 point font, 1 inch ma
        • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

          My daughter has chosen an arts-based path - subjects in music, drama, and visual art.

          Arguably, none of these require CS. They might require word processing skills, math skills, etc, even chemistry, but not pure CS.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        We do not have a "math" requirement. We have a "basic numbers and calculations you need in life" requirement.
        We do not have an "English" requirement either. We have a basic literacy requirement.
        And so on.

      • by ehaggis ( 879721 )
        We have an educational system which is designed for the middle of the bell curve. It fails miserably for outliers. However, because the measurement to receive funds is based on graduation rate and they are mandated to teach all manner of fluff, schools will push kids to graduate (regardless of actual learning and education) and force them to take unwanted (and unnecessary) courses. The educational system is a waste of time and money and serves as a propaganda arm for non-educational related agendas. Pleas
    • by mi ( 197448 )

      There is a difference between Compute Science and computer skills.

      Back in the day, I was a TA helping with the CS101 (or was it CS111?) class at a major school. That University just made a CS-course mandatory for all majors — 25 years prior to TFA.

      Although we did deal with basic computer literacy (which today's kids should be picking up in middle school), the course also included some scientific aspects, like loops vs. recursions.

    • Yeah - since the computer science they teach in a four-year college degree in computer science is pretty much irrelevant, I doubt that the 9 months, at-least-a-C -to-pass they'll be able to dedicate to it at the high-school level will mean anything at all.
    • CS isn't for everyone

      They know that. Everyone knows that.

      What they want to do is ransack the population for the best worker they can pay the least.

    • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @07:13PM (#56179011)
      that's really all there is to it. There is zero reason for "Computer Science" to be a graduation requirement. The math they cover is already more than sufficient. Anything more is a just a specialty branch of mathematics or just teaching people a trade. And there is zero reasons for computer focused trade schools. Between outsourcing and H1-Bs it's a dead end career. Sending someone off to computer themed trade schools is worse than cruel. It's a completely waste of everyone's time and money that only serves to devalue the wages of the few who've managed to eek out a meager living doing what's left of IT work in the States.
      • If you think computers are a dead-end career I'm not sure what you'd suggest going into. Computer programming and robotics engineering are the last jobs, because those are the fields that are trying to figure out how to replace every other field and eventually their own selves.
        • that's the only thing left. It's got a high barrier to entry and a strong Union (the AMA). You might still get automated away, but right we all take our chances.

          If you've got the chops for it there's still a career in mathematics. But don't confuse "working with computers" with mathematics. If you can't hack it in at least a 400 level math course then you have little future doing anything with computers for a living. You just can't compete with the double whammy that is offshore + H1-B.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      All students should have computer skills, but not all need computer science.

      Agreed. Cover fundamentals so that the kids aren't in awe of the never-to-be-questioned magic box, so that they understand that they're just dumb machines following a series of instructions. Introduce them to the basics of programming: basic logic, conditions, looping. Don't expect them to be computer geniuses, but do expect them to come out with a basic understanding of what computers are (and, more importantly, aren't), their capa

    • All students should have computer skills, but not all need computer science.

      True. It's like the difference among home economics (computer skills), shop class (programming), and geometry/precalculus (computer science).

      Misguided as the College Board's proposal is, there's a little bit of wisdom in teaching some of these things to everyone, but maybe not in the context of computing.

      The biggest win from CS is not the potential paycheck of being a programmer, but in things that other math/science courses should already teach students, but apparently don't: problem-solving by decomposit

    • Amazingly, even though it was not a requirement, I had three years of computer science in high school, in 1986, 1987 and 1988.

      Not everything needs to be a requirement.

      On the other hand, I only had one year of foreign language, because I had a rotten teacher that made me say "fuck this" even though I was inherently interest in the topic. Foreign language wasn't a requirement either.

      On the other, other hand, I had three years of PhysEd because it WAS a requirement, even though I was on the cross country team

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      "Computer skills" are a modern supplement to "reading, writing and doing numbers". Most certainly any educated person needs this. CS is a specialist engineering and/or mathematics discipline that is on par with other engineering and mathematical disciplines. Nobody except those specifically interested should do them. It is not only a complete waste of time for the others, it will not at all help them in life and it will decrease the time available for other skills, that may actually be useful to them.

      This i

    • Agreed. It would benefit the everyman more to understand, say, the privacy and security aspects of computing than data structures and algorithms.
    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Back in my middle/junior high school, a computer class was required. It wasn't about computer science, programming, etc. It was about how to use Apple 2s, type, softwares like AppleWorks, etc. Basic stuff.

  • the overlords (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TimMD909 ( 260285 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @06:42PM (#56178827) Homepage
    The overlords will never learn that they'll never be able to produce legions of cheap engineers, programmers, or whatever else.
    • The overlords will never learn that they'll never be able to produce legions of cheap engineers, programmers, or whatever else.

      India.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        They do not produce these. They produce cheap fakes that fail when faced with the first real problem.

    • The overlords will never learn that they'll never be able to produce legions of cheap engineers, programmers, or whatever else.

      I don't think this has anything to do with that. It makes perfect sense to me. In this computer-driven society, it makes sense that everyone should have exposure to basic concepts in information theory and programming for the same reasons everyone should be exposed to algebra, grammar, basic physics, biology, the rudiments of some foreign language, etc.

    • They never learn because society never gives them consequences for their failures.
      Our society is docile and ignorant, wholly corrupt.
      These bastards will be running their hopeless economic experiments until the day it all blows up.

    • in case you haven't paid any attention to what's coming out India already and what is rapidly coming out of the Philippians. But it's _never_ cheap enough. Ever. At least not until you're able to wake them up at midnight with nothing more than tea and a buscuit [thedailybeast.com]
      • by Anonymous Coward

        "But, but, do the needful!"

        Protip, just to add fuel to the fire: The average American programmer isn't really any better than the average outsourced Indian.

        Oh, I love the theory of American exceptionalism (I sure as hell wouldn't want to live anywhere else), but I'm also a realist and have spend decades watching unparalleled levels of incompetence in tech.

        The days where being mediocre made you a wizard are long gone, kids.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Indeed. Because they are incompetent, stupid and full of themselves. But that will not prevent them from trying. History is full of people that are supposed to be "leaders" doing really stupid things with their power.

  • The College Board want's to make something that will almost certainly be dominated by AI in the near future a requirement? Who's going to work on my car? My plumber makes six figures. Neither one needs to know how to "code" - whatever that actually means.

    • The college board has no authority on this matter while also having no incentive to implement it even if they did. Colleges dont want a decline in enrollment. Full stop.
  • Comment removed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by account_deleted ( 4530225 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @06:45PM (#56178837)
    Comment removed based on user account deletion
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Thats often all thats needed. Someone at 1 am who is trustworthy on site to swap out hardware.
      Someone who can read a log, work until staff, a contractor is on site.
  • Those are two very different things. Almost anyone can become a code-monkey.
  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @07:03PM (#56178943)

    The problem with making it a requirement is that you really can't get into any sort of detail without losing half the class. I've been systems-engineering my way through life for 20+ years, and I'd only consider myself slightly above a code monkey skills-wise. It's clear that some sort of exposure to logical thinking, troubleshooting, etc. helps. But, even with templating I would find it very difficult to open up Visual Studio and crank out a full-stack web application that I'd dare show off to anyone. I can automate stuff, glue things together with PowerShell, etc...but actual development requires real skill, or 100 hour weeks running in circles until you get it right.

    Also, my example is one of someone who is very interested in computers and systems engineering. Imagine trying to teach whatever they can call "computer science" to a disinterested bunch of high school students. Same goes for requiring a foreign language...you can't get too far down into details or most of the students won't be able to pass the class.

    I don't know what to think about what makes a good education before. Most of the jobs people are doing now are going to be gone, and SW development is almost sure to be done automatically through abstraction or entirely in India very soon. Maybe all those liberal arts majors we used to laugh at are going to have the last laugh after all...

  • Is Computer Science science with a computer, science on a computer, or science of a computer?
    • The science *OF* a computer is electronics, which they won't be teaching you in computer science class.
  • Not everyone wants the skills.
    Not everyone has the inclination.
    Not everyone needs it.
    Making it a requirement is elitism and simply pushes up the cost of education with no meaningful benefit.

    • It's payback for Gym class. That's where all the jocks felt superior and made fun of the physically inferior nerds. Now all the nerds get to laugh at the jocks because they can't understand the difference between a function and a procedure.
  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @07:08PM (#56178979)
    in America "The College Board" is the company that makes the standardized testing for college here (the SAT). My guess is they'd like to add CS to their test having determined that doing so would be profitable. They're another one of those "non-Profits" who makes hefty profits for it's owners. Like Goodwill if you've heard of them.
    • by TheSync ( 5291 )

      More importantly, The College Board runs the Advanced Placement (AP) programs, which by the way includes AP Computer Science. Hmmm....

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Think of the past and the approved calculator and related textbook sales.
      Now its GUI code, robot kits and approved software.
  • by wyattstorch516 ( 2624273 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @07:22PM (#56179095)

    Reminds me of the Cisco Networking Academy [netacad.com]. The idea was to prepare kids to step into all of the Network Engineering jobs that were going to be created in the coming years.

    Funny thing happened, between virtualization, containers, and cloud computing demand for this skill plummeted. Now you have a bunch of kids who spent years learning Cisco's technology only to find no jobs waiting for them.

    I suppose they could teach classical Computer Science (algorithms, data structures, etc.), but given the typical drop out rate in college after one semester of Computer Science I doubt it will stick for many students. The ones that do well would likely have done so without the requirement.

    • In high school (2003), I took a Novell Netware course and at the end of it became a "Certified Novell NetWare Administrator" <sarscam>And, am I ever so glad I got that. Being able to manage a NetWare environment has been a huge boon to my career.</sarcasm>

      Seriously though, exposure to things is never bad. But, when I think of "computer science", I think of students learning algorithms like when to use a bubble sort vs a quick sort, that's things that at that level most could not care less about.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The skills gap is between the person who creates server farm code and who looks after the landscaping around the server centre.
      People who are up at 2 am to swap hardware out. People who can read a log and follow commands until experts are on site.
      Someone who can read back from a set of questions for a support call all day but have some understanding of a complex issue emerging.
  • by enrique556 ( 4461637 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @07:50PM (#56179247)

    What democratic countries really need to teach their kids is a bit of statistics and probability. Armed with a basic understanding of both, people will make better choices at the polling booth, be less prone to gambling, and less susceptible to marketing fluff. Humans do not have an instinctive understanding of these topics, especially where orders of magnitude are involved, making it very easy to deceive and mislead them.

    • What democratic countries really need to teach their kids is a bit of statistics and probability. Armed with a basic understanding of both, people will make better choices at the polling booth, be less prone to gambling, and less susceptible to marketing fluff. Humans do not have an instinctive understanding of these topics, especially where orders of magnitude are involved, making it very easy to deceive and mislead them.

      I'd go further and say that we need to teach the kids some basic social science, and something about law. A social science class based upon teaching people the skills needed to evaluate research would be very helpful. A lot of this topic would involve teaching people how statistics can be misused and misinterpreted. Applications to things like criminal justice and economics would be helpful.

      The little book How to Lie with Statistics is a good start, but people would benefit from a deeper exposure to topi

  • CS != Programming (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DRichardHipp ( 995880 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @07:52PM (#56179255)

    Perhaps by "CS" they mean something other than programming. Topics might include:

    1. The history of computing
    2. Binary arithmetic, and why numbers like 1024 come up so often in connection with computers.
    3. Representing text as numbers using ASCII or Unicode
    4. What is an IP address?
    5. What is a TCP port?
    6. What is the difference between "the internet" and "the world-wide web"?
    7. What is HTTP? Homework involves viewing HTTP traffic, or perhaps even fetching a webpage using nothing more than telnet.
    8. What is HTML? Homework is to create an HTML file using a basic (no syntax highlighting) text editor.
    9. DNS: What is it and why is it important?
    10. Computability. Some problems are unsolvable by computers. Other problems are provably hard (NP-complete).
    11. Cryptography. What is a one-time pad? A substitution cypher? What is the difference between symmetric and public-key crypto?
    12. What is a "filesystem"?
    13. What is a "process" and a "thread"?
    14. How to operate a computer using a command-line shell, and without a GUI.
    15. What is "network neutrality"?

    There is a lot more of the above. This is stuff ./-ers take for granted, but most people have no clue about any of it. And yet it is important for citizens in a modern society to know. Hence, it needs to be taught in school.

    • by Zumbs ( 1241138 )

      I would probably start both simpler and maybe with more immediate focus on the stuff that high schoolers interact with:

      1. How does a computer work?
      2. How does internet search engines work?
      3. What is the business model of facebook and other social media and why is that important for you?
      4. Privacy in the digital age (with side subjects like encryption, revenge porn, social media, data security)
    • Agree with just about all of the above.

      But don't call it computer science. As I'm sure you know, computer science has little to do with computers and much more to do with mathematics and algorithms.

      How about Computer Civics?

      And throw in Copyright, Copyleft, and various commonly used software licenses.
      "Cloud" computing (and it's ramifications on the importance of maintenance of historic and deprecated software).

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday February 23, 2018 @08:27PM (#56179419)
    Is a simple one-semester "basic life skills" course. It should cover:
    • Time management / prioritizing.
    • Home finance management and basic accounting. So people know how to file taxes (or know they're supposed to file taxes), know when to get insurance and when not to, won't go nuts with their first credit card, won't take out unrealistic student loans, won't get ripped off with exorbitant hidden interest rates.
    • Recognizing common scams, logical fallacies, and counter-intuitive statistical quirks like Simpson's Paradox [wikipedia.org].
    • Negotiation, compromise, personal communications / interpersonal relationships - otherwise they graduate HS thinking the popularity hierarchy is the norm.
    • College, scholarships, internships, and job interviews. I immigrated as a child and my parents knew none of this so I had to figure it all out on my own (before the Internet).
    • Basic mechanics and electronics. So people can handle simple household repairs, and know why your car needs regular oil changes. Should cover basics of energy and power (subset of physics) so people don't believe silly things like making batteries out of lemons (the energy comes from the refined metals you stick into the lemon, not the lemon).
    • Basic cooking. So people don't waste money on fast food all their lives.
    • Basics of statistics. Mainly some of the fundamentals of probability including the gambler's fallacy [wikipedia.org], correlation is not causation. prisoners dilemma [wikipedia.org] (including when it doesn't apply), and tragedy of the commons [wikipedia.org].
    • Basic first aid/survival and self defense. For when the zombie apocalypse comes.
    • I'd add to that list a course on dating / the opposite sex.

      Sure we have sex ed, but it's mostly about scaring kids that they'll get STDs.

      In other countries, students actually learn about relationships, how to attract a partner, etiquette for dates, etc.

    • Several of those are racist. Not everyone goes to college. How are you assuming that all the students will graduate and have jobs, and thus require filing tax returns? Everyone has a car...etc. This whole list is like "what's important to upper-middle class white children" and that is problematic.
  • Epic play. If they succeed then it's probably the beginning of the end for state control of education.

  • AP is supposed to college level, but according to teachers I know, there're bucketloads of sophomores that take the class, and pass it.

    Apparently the other course is harder, but again tons of sophomores pass it.

    Obvious conclusion, it's bollocks that these courses are "college level."

  • code.org material for AP CS is great.

    The AppLab environment gives them enough IDE-like introduction and the sandbox'd Javascript and execution emulator is worthy. We also use GitHub for class assignments and I have them turn in everything as straight up ASCII files in their student and class private repositories. We use Atom editor bolted up to GitHub for everything outside of AppLab.

    75% of the students appreciate the material. The other 25% do not. Meh

  • Just like with the "everyone should code" shit, instead why not teach young people (and even adults) about using proper skepticism with content, properly using security procedures that CS definitely doesn't teach you, and realising that if it's online everyone else in the world can see it (something evidently people still don't understand)?

    Maybe then I can see one less post about how Facebook will be charging soon or friend requests from some other user is a superhacker, or The Onion *just may be true thi
  • This is great, if everyone graduates high school with CS knowledge, we can significantly reduce the wages we pay computer programmers right now to the equivalent of the average retail worker. Great news for Google, Apple and Facebook for their bottom line and who employ thousands of (currently) expensive computer programmers.
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Not going to happen as basically all of these people will be completely useless in any CS or IT role.

  • Just as other engineering disciplines are not for everyone and are certainly not a requirement to be a productive member of society, CS has absolutely no business being a mandatory subject. The same is even more true for theoretical CS. Might as well force everybody to take Topology or Mechanical engineering.

  • What about economics? Or statistics? First Aid?

    Don't stay in school [youtube.com]

  • I taught a college programming course for freshmen for a number of semesters. This course was typically their first introduction to programming. Most of these children had not been prepared by their schooling to use either math or logic. To push computer science in high school is just bizarrely stupid. These children need a much better grounding in a number of subjects before attempting to learn programming.

    Example: who among you confuses degrees of temperature with degrees of angles? Did you ever
  • Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, Twitter.
    (Not Facebook! That's for old people, like my parents! That's funnnie!)
    Also of course, proficiency with Siri.

    https://vimeo.com/239050403 [vimeo.com]

  • Math is foundational and necessary before pivoting to other disciplines. Programming or computer science are good things to learn. It's how I make my living although I don't have that particular degree (math major).

    Those things can be picked up later. If pre-college education should give rounded skills to function in society, I would prefer financial education that involves understanding of interest rates and some parts of economics which if taught by the right person can be a stimulating subject.

  • Whenever someone wants to add something new to the school curriculum, they need to say what topics should be dropped to replace it. That might be fine- I expect many schools still teach cursive writing for example, but the tradeoff needs to be made

    Personally I'd put economics ahead of computer science on things to be added to schools.

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