Case for computer science

If you are arguing the case for computer science and computational thinking, you may find this EdSurge post of value. The comments argue the value of CS and some of the issues that limit course and experience offerings in school. The position taken is a little over the top for my taste so my promotion of this article is mostly for the sake of some of the data and resources that are included. Comparing the preparation of teachers in the areas of reading and math with the resources devoted to preparing teachers to provide instruction in the area of computer science is trying a little too hard.

Here is an observation. STEM and CS advocates seem to be presently enjoying a time in the sun. Politicians, parents and celebrities say they believe “coding for all” is important. What is the basis for this enthusiasm? Is this enthusiasm related to a commitment to provide new resources or is this another issue that schools are somehow supposed to fund a way to address?

It is not that I am against learning to program? Having this skill was of great benefit to me personally because it was an unusual skill for someone who did the academic work I did to be able to program. When I find myself engaged in discussions about this topic, I often propose that educational time has limits and ask what existing commitments should be cut to make room for a new commitment. Consider that those who support arts education and physical education already must fight to maintain some piece of the time and resources available for educating students.

Aside from this reality, the question of why certain skills appeal to those willing to pressure schools or in one direction or another is interesting. Why programming? Why not intelligent information consumption allowing citizens to evaluate the quality of information they consume? There are more of us who must refuse to be manipulated by fake news than who will ever program and this type of skill is looking to be essential to our democracy. I think a sound case could be made for a greater commitment to writing skills. Writing can take so many different forms and it is my personal opinion that “writing to explain” receives far too little attention. Maybe these would be examples of skills that should be emphasized while other related skills (other forms of writing, other goals for reading) should receive less attention.

There is a related question I think should be answered. When is the time to devote part of the time available to a specific skill? Are K-12 experiences necessary to encourage young students to pursue skill development at the college level? Again, which vocational or thinking skills should get this treatment and how are such decisions made? For example, I think I can make a strong argument that the profession of programmer needs less attention than the profession of mental health worker. When in K12 are students informed of career opportunities in the mental health field or taught basic skills that might be applied when interacting with a depressed friend?

So, this is the way I tend to frame this issue. How should the K-12 curriculum be allocated to address the many possible needs that exist?

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