Is It A Good Thing That Computer Science Is 'Cool Again'?
from the maybe-not dept
Computer science is cool again. At least, that’s what the headline at Network World says. Apparently, CS enrollments are up for the first time in six years, driven by “teens’ excitement about social media and mobile technologies.” I’m a CS grad student, so you might expect me to be excited about this development, but I’m not actually sure it’s such a good sign. It’s great that there are more people considering careers in the IT industry, but I worry about people going into computer science for the wrong reasons. In my experience, if your brain works a certain way, you’ll love programming and will have a successful career in the software industry. If it doesn’t, there probably isn’t much you can do to change that. So I’d love to see more kids explore CS, but if, after taking a couple of classes, they’re not sure if CS is the right major for them, then frankly it probably isn’t. If you don’t enjoy programming, you’re almost certainly not going to be a good programmer, and you’re not going to be either successful or happy in that career. The fact that you like Facebook or your iPhone definitely isn’t enough reason to be a CS major.
I think it would be better if colleges focused on expanding the computer training that non-CS majors receive. Almost every technical field involves manipulating large datasets, and so the ability to write basic computer programs will be a big productivity boost in a wide variety of fields, from economics to biology. Most people aren’t cut out to be full-time programmers, but lots of people could benefit from a 1-semester course that focuses on practical data manipulation skills with a high-level scripting language like Perl or Python.