Stop talking about the need for computer science and start teaching it

Until recently, the basic skills that we are all taught in elementary and secondary school have given us an adequate foundation to lead us through much of daily life.

If you could read, you could learn and follow directions. If you could do math, you could manage your finances or have a successful business. If you could write, you could communicate clearly and advocate for yourself or others.

But the world is changing so fast that these foundational elements of education are no longer enough. At a time when computers increasingly control every aspect of our daily lives – both on the job and at home – the lessons we teach students must adapt to where the world is going, not where it has been.

Because of this, computing education must be part of every core curriculum, from elementary school through college. But teaching all students computing will require a major mind-shift – mostly among educators, who have never learned the subject themselves.

A recent Gallup Poll found that 91 percent of parents want their children to study computer science. However, only one in four schools teaches computer programming.

So how do we stop talking about the need for computer science education and actually start teaching the subject?

First, we need to educate the educators about the importance of computing overall and how it can no longer only be the domain only of geeks, boys, or those who want to grow up to be software engineers.

Today, the line between white-collar and blue-collar jobs is fading fast. The tools traditionally associated with factory work, for example, are rapidly evolving from manually controlled machines to computer-enabled devices.

For example, if the heating and air-conditioning system in a house is acting up but it has sensors and sends performance data to the manufacturer, a remote technician may be able to service it from a computer rather than in person.

We've reached a point where every job from NASA to nursing requires a better understanding of computational processes and computer science.

The "nice-to-have" or "competitive advantage" skill is no longer an option; it's now a requirement. This is because any domain in which people make decisions, monitor situations or take action based on information has been dramatically impacted by advances in computing.


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