Somehow I’ve never understood the progressive tendency to believe that you can just spend some money and wave your hands and shazam!!! magic happens. Here’s a case in point.
The White House announced Obama’s new Computer Science for All initiative in a blog post recently. The president has allotted $4 billion in funding for states to ensure that every student between kindergarten and 12th grade receives sufficient computer science education. Of that $4 billion, $100 million will go directly to school districts, and $135 million will be made available this year.
As technology advances, more and more jobs require employees to have computer science skills. However, not everyone has access to that kind of education. Though more than 90% of parents say they want their children to have a computer science curriculum, only about 25% of schools offer quality programs. In 22 states, computer science classes don’t even count toward graduation credit. In 2015, about 600,000 high-paying tech jobs in the U.S. went unfilled, and in the next two years over half of all STEM jobs are expected to be related to computer science.
Now far be it for me to pour cold water on all these great plans, but this is sort of the talk that went on thirty years ago or more. And again just about every five years or so. With results that were, at best mediocre. This is what happens when people mandate things that they don’t understand.
Look, I’ve been a geek since I was a kid. I’ve had my hands on computers off and on since I was in cub scouts in 1969 and they took us to the Fairfield University computer center and I played my first computer game, tic tac toe. I dismantled just about anything I could get my hands on and sometimes got that stuff back together. And I’ve been coding since the computer dark ages when memory was measure in kilobytes. I was lucky, but more important I had the aptitude and the attitude.
If you have the those the tools for improving yourself come to hand incredibly easily these days. Look, people throw away more computing power than even the government had when I was a kid. Computing power that was unimaginable when I was kid is available for a clever dumpster dive. You could probably get it with the OS and software still on it if you ask nicely. And the classes needed to learn just about any the latest computer languages are available online, for free. As are all the things you need to learn how to make or build just about anything. The opportunities available are essentially endless.
The fact is that you can’t mandate that people become what they are not. No amount of mandated classes are going to turn the kids who simply don’t have the attitude and the aptitude into computer geeks. Look this sort of thing has been tried throughout history, coercing people in the mold that elites want them in and the only thing it’s done is create societies of misery and poverty. The fact is that all the mandated classes in computer science, whatever that means, and as they say they keep using terms like that and they don’t understand that what they think it means is not what it really is.
Real computer science is about the theory of communication and computer architectures, about advanced algorithms and clever hacks. It’s about a love for the pure abstraction of numbers. A true computer scientist gets ecstatic over a new sorting program. This isn’t the sort of stuff that everybody can just do, nor should they. But that’s the essence of computer science.
Being a computer user, is something different. The typical user doesn’t need to know about things like registers, lists and pointers. What they need to know is how to get the most out of the software they are using, which in many case is not easy, but that is not computer science.
This sort of thing is what happens when the people on top making the decisions have no idea about the things that they are making decisions about. Frankly, like so much lefty pablum, this is just stupid. All it’s going to do is stress kids out, make them feel incompetent and incapable and waste still more government money and the kids precious education time while achieving nothing. Typical of what’s happening right now.