Getting politicians to support CS, when they don’t understand CS

March 6, 2014 at 1:54 am 1 comment

The article below describes a political furor over appointing someone to lead an effort to support computing education — who doesn’t herself understand much about computing.

But this is a general problem, and is probably a problem for engineering education, too.  Most US politicians in Washington DC don’t have STEM backgrounds.  Few know anything about engineering.  Fewer still know anything about computer science.  Even if they really want to support STEM, engineering, and computing education, not knowing what it is themselves makes it more challenging for them to make good choices.

The row over Tory cronies in taxpayer-backed positions look set to intensify after it emerges the boss of the government’s coding education initiative cannot code — or even give a decent explanation of what is involved. Figures behind the scheme include Michael Gove, who is at the centre of the furore over Conservative placemen in Whitehall and the ‘quangocracy’.

Conservative activist Lottie Dexter was ridiculed by IT experts and educationalists for her clueless performance on Newsnight — in which she claimed that teachers could be trained how to educate students in computer programming “in a day”

via Tories’ ‘Year of Code’ boss Lottie Dexter can’t code | Political Scrapbook.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Raul Miller  |  March 6, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Of course technically speaking teachers could be trained to educate students in computer programming “in a day”. There’s a quality issue, perhaps, but …

    And, of course, technically the students could be trained “in a day” also.

    What both of these statements should illustrate is a lack of depth, a lack of vocabulary, perhaps an emphasis on “easy come, easy go” and, perhaps a lack of compassion and understanding of the issues facing students.

    Then again, if you are looking for leaders to solve your problems, you are probably looking in the wrong place. The best response to leadership is probably: keep them out of trouble and show them how it’s done.

    Still, there’s a certain truth to Lottie Dexter’s claims. It should not take very long – maybe a day, maybe a week, maybe an hour – to train people in “how to study”. Learning to test one’s knowledge against practical experience, learning to pace oneself, learning to find relevant references – these skills are critical to everyone’s education and should not take that long to learn.

    But these kinds of basics are worth repeating, because they are not going to manifest in the same way in every class, even if the classes are related and treat the same general subject area.

    Human understanding is a messy business, and it only seems simple after it has been achieved.

    But you knew that already.


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