Berkeley talking about compulsory computing

November 19, 2012 at 8:32 am 4 comments

Cool!  Glad to see the discussion!  Mike Hewner’s dissertation really supports the argument for requiring computer science of everyone and making it enjoyable, as a strategy to get people to explore computer science (the ACM/WGBH study suggests that few students will explore academic CS unless it’s put in their path) which creates the opportunity for students deciding to pursue more computer science.

Why doesn’t UC Berkeley require — or at least strongly encourage — nonmajors to take computer science? For a few reasons, none of which are particularly compelling. The computer science department would need to accommodate many more students. And the department would likely need to create a suite of introductory courses, rather than simply dramatically expanding its existing course for nonmajors, according to Garcia. This would be a challenge, Garcia says, but it’d be a worthwhile one.

Some people will no doubt charge that requiring a computing course would undermine the ideal of a liberal arts education by making the Letters and Science curriculum too focused on vocational preparation rather than intellectual exploration. But the terrible job market has already put the concept of a pure liberal arts education under scrutiny. If the liberal arts are to retain their credibility, they must be adapted to reflect changing economic realities. Not to mention the fact that, as Garcia and others have argued, computational literacy is a fundamental skill in the 21st century — it has nearly as strong a claim to a place in the liberal arts curriculum as reading or writing.

via Compulsory computing? | The Daily Californian.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. nickfalkner  |  November 19, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Very interesting. Computational thinking is almost unavoidable in any profession these days and, rather than being seen as a vocational skill, I really consider it to be a skill that is now almost as fundamental as literacy and numeracy if you’re going to function in the modern world. Of course, I’d love to see the reverse – CS majors who have to take certain broadening humanities to give them the understanding of the importance of areas that are seen, fairly or not, as less vocationally focused.

    I’m slightly biassed, of course, as I’m looking at Digital Humanities at the moment and have signed up for Winter Camp doing large textual corpus analysis with open source tools at DHWI in January.

    • 2. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  November 20, 2012 at 7:54 pm

      Umm, in the US, almost every college requires CS majors to take courses in the humanities. But very few require humanities majors to take courses in CS. At most there is a requirement to take a science course and a math course, and those usually at what most people would consider a high-school level (precalculus and non-calculus physics, for example).

      • 3. nickfalkner  |  November 21, 2012 at 5:16 pm

        At my Uni, an Engineer or CS major could avoid humanities completely although recent ‘broadening’ changes will most likely change that. Another fine example of the differences between our college cultures!

  • […] of making everyone computing literate, and I am quite convinced that it will be very expensive.  Requiring computing education for STEM professionals at undergraduate level may still be cost-effect…, because those are the professionals most likely to see the value of computing in their careers, […]


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