Are Kids Not Going Into Computer Science Because Their Parents Want Them To Be Sports Stars?

from the really? dept

There’s been some talk lately about how come not as many students are taking computer science in school, and someone over at Information Management online is suggesting that it’s all your parents fault for encouraging you to be a baseball star or a CEO or the next American Idol. This seems to be based on nothing more than a hunch, and the whole thing makes no sense to me. My guess is that most people who don’t go into computer science don’t do it because they’re not interested in it. I don’t think the answer is to tell your little slugger to put down the baseball bat and spend more time learning BASIC.

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Comments on “Are Kids Not Going Into Computer Science Because Their Parents Want Them To Be Sports Stars?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Parents always push kids into sports, so they can crow “that’s my boy!” whenever jr does something. Each and every time school funding comes up, the school board knows that they can get it if they threaten to cut back on school sports. Screw learning, jr wants to throw the ball! It’s like a stupid dog – throw the ball, throw the ball, throw the ball!

brent (profile) says:

Re: Re:

i dont think crowing “that’s my boy” is the reason I’m encouraging my son into sports. I am encouraging him into sports because he always asks to play them and i know that once he has grown up he and i will be able to share that if it still interests him. My dad pushed me into golf when i was real young and years later i now play golf with my dad as much as i can. I also take my 3 year old out onto the course with me. it’s a great chance for me to get some exercise as well as him. (walking 18 does burn calories believe it or not) I also look forward to my son learning to ice skate and play hockey with me when he is older. Men’s league is fun and all but itll be great teaching him to do all that given that he enjoys it.

boost says:

Re: Re:

There has been many studies that correlate intellectual prowess with athletic prowess. Researchers have found that athleticism promotes brain development in children and helps to maintain it in adults. Also, team sports help prepare children for the challenges of the real world. Youth that have participated in team sports are more likely to understand the team dynamic that is so important in the corporate world.

hegemon13 says:

Re: There's lots of reasons

If you’re talking about pushing a child to become any specific thing, it’s a good thing that the majority don’t do that.

Parents should support the interests of their children. They should be there to correct the course when the child does something that could be dangerous. They should support education itself and make sure their children understand it’s value. They should have high, but realistic expectations that push their children to do their best in the subjects and activities the child chooses.

However, picking your child’s interests/career or “pushing” them to be a certain thing is the surest way to have an apathetic, unmotivated child.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’d say after the whole globalization hoopla started, it became apparent how difficult CS majors will be able to economically compete, as well as make ends meet.

If you learned that your boss fired a co-worker, and sent their job to a “Well qualified PHd in Hyderabad with 20 years of web experience” for $50.00 a week, you may be a little depressed.

But later, it may make you fear for the quality of the manager you have. 20 years Web Experience? Shit. They must have worked with Tim Berners-Lee.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re:

I think you hit the nail right on the head. Computer Science used be the “career of the future.” It was an exciting field with endless opportunity and high salaries with just a bachelor’s degree.

Now the perception is of a scary minefield of outsourcing and layoffs. Software engineering is generally a 5- to 5.5-year major, and employment can be very difficult to find. The job market is full of experienced, unemployed programmers, engineers, and IT staff who end up taking jobs well below their experience level just to have a job at all. Meanwhile, many jobs are going overseas or into programs like the disastrous H1B visa program.

That’s the perception. How much is true? I don’t know. But that’s how the general public views it, and that is going to drive students away from the field.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think the problem is split between the reasons you mentioned and some other problems.

CS’s stigma as being an all-guy and all-nerd major (which isn’t entirely inaccurate) is another big problem.

Also the knowledge that you’ll be spending the rest of your days typing away at a desk. At least with other engineering majors like electrical engineering or mechanical engineering there’s some preconception that you could be out doing something ‘cool’.

Of course to many of us, myself included, making computers do something very complex is ‘cool’. I just don’t think that many people really see it like that.

Also CS is an incredibly bad major for people uninterested in it. Other majors like Accounting or business-y stuff are probably more worth the effort if you just want to make money. CS isn’t exactly a path that’s assured to get you rich and also potentially involves long hours. On top of that if you aren’t interested in code it won’t be anything but excessively boring since it’s not a job where you can really ‘zone out’ or constantly be doing new things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Your right on so many levels. It just drives them to move to one of the only hotbeds of real innovation, Silicon Valley.

Many other places seems to have caught the H1B Piggie Flu. Piggie Flu allows managers to play golf during the workweek because their normal allocated headcount of 20 FTEs in accounting is dropped to 5 FTEs financially, and you know what that means– big bonus for management for reducing expenses! Also, because employees are 1/2 a world away and asleep when you’re awake, they probably won’t notice or care about the tan you got when you’re hard at work at the Arnold Palmer-designed country club.

Getefix says:

Re: Re:

“I’d say after the whole globalization hoopla started, it became apparent how difficult CS majors will be able to economically compete, as well as make ends meet.”

Too right. American kids are taught just enough to realize that they aren’t lean and hungry, nor getting a quality enough education to compete in fields demanding a high intellect. Then they take the time to learn how American business really works: nepotism, favoritism, sexism, plagiarism and exploitation. There are better work environments out there for the tattered remnants of American intellectual capital. The vote that counts is the vote you make with your feet.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Unemployment

Yes, I think that plays a big factor. I was managing editor of an online business publication back in 2001. I saw a lot of people laid off after the dotcom bust. If a high tech education doesn’t protect you from unemployment, why bother with it?

I’m going to guess that all of those engineers who lost jobs and couldn’t get them back advised their kids to go into another field.

Brian (profile) says:

Re: Re: Unemployment

I would be happy to see kids educated in basic computer skills so they at least know how to fucking turn on a computer and open a basic application or hell even, dare is say this, fix some of the most basic computer problems O_O!! Although maybe thats a bad thing since geek squad would pretty much be out of business overnight if that happened.

buster says:

Re: There's too many already

Well, in the part of the USA I’m in we can not find software engineers . Most the the people that come in for a job can not pass a programming test.

It’s also funny how many people think that Computer Science is about programming. The programming is only a tool.

Most people do not go into Computer Science because they can not do the math.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: programming

programming is something highly uncommon currently due to how our brains are wired.

The more time I spend with “programmers” who couldn’t program their way out of a paper bag, the more convinced I am that this is the truth – it’s not that these people are dumb by any means – it’s just that I believe their brains aren’t wired the same way as people who really get into programming.

The kids with an aptitude for programming are going to learn how to program without any pushing from anyone. The rest… It’s just as well that they do find something else to do with their lives

mike42 (profile) says:

Let's not forget

Programming is often coupled with Mathematics, and although they are loosely related, they are certainly not married. Programming is logic, and is therefore equally related to physics, chemistry, philosophy, and even English. (Can you put together a logical paragraph? Then you can probably program!) The Mathematics requirement pushed 20 years ago made no sense then or now.

Also, many schools simpy do no offer computer courses anymore. I know my son’s high school has no programming offerings.

The strangest thing that I have seen seems to be caused by the ease of use that modern GUI’s offer. The children seem to become “spoiled” by point-and-click, and have no interest in learning arcane “keywords”.

I agree, the “job of the future” has gone the way of the dodo. More work for me, though 🙂

Daniel says:

Think of the dotcom bust...

Not sure about the sports thing, but I know several people who were going into Computer Science in college when the 2000 dotcom bubble burst. Companies were shedding IT jobs like crazy, and many of those professionals went into real-estate for the ‘quick buck’. Now that the real estate bubble burst, they’re trying to go back to IT.

Since it was only 9 years ago, it could be that event is still stuck in their minds and in those of their parents. I’ve been fighting in the IT world for years.

Many IT people I worked with didn’t want the bother of getting a BS in Computer Science, and so only remained computer administrators, etc. Now that all of the IT jobs are going overseas to India and other asian companies and bringing in Indian IT professionals to the US through a visa, it makes finding programming jobs much more difficult, even with a Bachelors.

Dean Landolt (profile) says:

BASIC? Really?

“I don’t think the answer is to tell your little slugger to put down the baseball bat and spend more time learning BASIC.”

As an experienced software developer who cut his teeth on BASIC I can say with certainty that this is _terrible_ advice!

But I also shied away from computer science courses and focused academically on business and economics subject matter and frankly, I couldn’t be happier about this. There’s very little about computer science that’s particularly suited to the classroom, and the languages and practices they teach are notoriously outdated. Kids are better off staying away.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Probably not. At the rate which IT and CS majors are being devalued, I doubt I would even have a retirement left or health coverage in 5 years if I don’t keep moving. As long as major meetings describe everything in costs and legalese, and not value, it’s not difficult to see the whole industry taking a serious death blow in a decade.

It’ll probably be some simple innovation like 24-hour malls in cities where innovation is exported, or home sunlamps to trick people into thinking it’s daytime so managers are awake to manage their overseas subordinates.

But that wouldn’t stop me from letting Junior go down the same path. I have a few simple concepts I’d share along the way and maybe he’ll probably learn something in the process.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I certainly wouldn’t, unless it’s their passion.

IT is a mature industry now. If I were to pick an industry where my child would have a chance at getting the rewards of being part of The Next Big Thing, I’d pick the biological sciences, specifically genetic engineering. It is where the computer industry was in the ’70s.

But really? I want my kid to have a career that fulfills her. Whatever that may be, and regardless of other considerations.

John Doe says:

Now I am depressed...

I am in IT and have been for almost 20 years. It is depressing to see everyone here saying how bad of shape the field is in. Wow, could have fooled me as I don’t see that at all. Yea, some jobs have been exported, but the IT industry is still doing well. What I would recommend to someone is to find a niche in the field. That probably goes for any field. Find a niche and fill it.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Now I am depressed...

IT is in good shape in certain parts of the country, for now. If you don’t happen to live in one of those parts, then it’s truly rough going. Filling a niche can help, but when there is a huge overpopulation of programmers, there still aren’t enough viable niches to support them all.

Of course, the landscape may change when the economy improves. Then again, it may not. I’m thinking of the overpopulation of engineers in the ’70s. That field never did grow enough to employ everyone who was trained & qualified to do the work.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Now I am depressed...

When middle aged tech and IT workers have trouble getting jobs (and presumably they are smart enough to learn the new skills necessary), why would college-aged students be encouraged to go into the field? So they can be laid off, and then have a new generation of workers get those jobs?

I don’t really know what is happening in the field now, but I did see what happened in 2001. People were laid off and couldn’t find other tech jobs.

The turnover in tech can be as brutal as it is in any field, so unless you really want to do it, don’t bother.

Anonymous Coward says:

The generation of kids aged 18-25 are old enough to have lived through their parents being unemployed as a direct result of outsourcing. I remember the first time I heard anyone say ‘Where the fuck is Bangalore?’ or ‘WTF is Bangalore?’ Now those little bastards overseas have all of our tech jobs because we had a corporate ass-kissing President in office for eight years. Something could have been done, but it’s too late now. The genie’s out of the bottle.

The poetic justice is that call centers are tearing out the lines in Bangalore, packing up and moving to even cheaper locales, like China.

Beano says:

No Jobs for Newbies

Kids don’t go into CS because there are no jobs for newbies. All of the first timer jobs go to India, Malaysia, China. Not a lot of fun for us oldsters in Corporate America.

My company (60000+ employees) hasn’t hired someone right out of college for years. The developers are all 35+ years old.

BTW, the people that are hired from India – no fancy college degrees. Many from technical schools. Its hard to mentor someone who lives in such a radically different time zone

Nate (profile) says:

I certainly don’t blame the parents for lack of Computer Science interest in kids, and I have a hard time blaming one group over another because in reality this ‘problem’ (if it is a problem) stems from multiple sources.

Though if I had to choose one group to blame it would be schools. My high school used to have a computer course requirement. Granted, this really wasn’t anything more than how to learn to use Microsoft products, but it directly exposed kids and may have sparked some interest in someone. My high school also used to have computer programming courses in GW BASIC and AP Computer Science (Java). Sadly, my high school dropped the computer course requirement because they weren’t able to enforce it (lack of funding, faculty, and facilities).

So without schools, how else is a kid going to be exposed to CS? I wouldn’t readily suggest parents be completely responsible because they’re at a disadvantage, especially with technology. Altogether I wouldn’t expect parents to be knowledgeable about other fields outside of their scope of work anyway. I also don’t expect kids to pick up the slack either. There will be those who will, but they are few and far between. So with what I see as a lack of other opportunities for exposure to CS (or any other field) I think a school’s core responsibility should include exposing kids to a broad array of fields. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done…

But like I originally said (and would like to further re-emphasize), lack of interest in CS stems from multiple sources. I chose to point out schools because of my personal first hand experience.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Go Open

Even while proprietary software companies like Microsoft and Adobe are suffering shrinking revenues and having to lay off staff in the downturn, open-source businesses like Red Hat, and the open-source parts of Novell, are continuing to grow both profits and revenue.

If you want to advance a career in computing, look at open-source technologies. The world doesn’t need more Java and BASIC programmers, but it could do with more Python. And Web 2.0 is built heavily on JavaScript, so that can be useful to know as well.

CAS says:

Why bother

As a comp sci grad I can say that even while I was in school my friends and I knew we didn’t want to be career developers. In the US you quickly learn that you make the bucks by being the manager and you don’t become the manager (even in IT) by developing. How many of us have had a non-technical manager in a technical role? Why bother with IT when you can just manage those guys by doing econ?

It’s summed up best by what a guest lecturer in my software engineering class said:

“Dilbert’s not funny when it’s your life.”

Anonymous Coward says:

CS is not IT, it just happens that most anyone who does CS can do IT, too if they bother about it.

Want to talk about a useless major? Talk MIS.

I’m in college for CS and so far as I can tell graduates are getting hired somewhere….

Though I agree in a lot of ways it’s a pretty anticlimactic career if you get a testing/implementation only desk job… (Hopefully I’ll find something at least slightly better.)

Of course I mostly just care that I can find a job in the open source world.

Cdaragorn says:

The big problem with a lot of understanding here seems to be that most people think that programmer = CS = IT, and that’s just plain not true. Most of the jobs that were lost in the dotcom bust, for instance, were all programmer jobs. This means people who learned how to write programs, but never took the effort to learn how to develop software. It’s almost like the difference between an architect and the guy who works on the building.

While CS and IT are very similar in many ways, they have very different concentrations, and neither could do the others job well enough to call themselves professionals in that field, though a lot of people like to think they could. The fact is, CS is in one of the top 10 most wanted jobs on every study I’ve seen lately, the real problem I see among fellow students around me is that they go in thinking they’ll get to make cool programs easily, and bail out quickly when they find out how hard it really is. It really just boils down to most people not really enjoying this type of job.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Available jobs

“The fact is, CS is in one of the top 10 most wanted jobs on every study I’ve seen lately …”

If this is the case, what universities might want to do is publish what percentage of its CS graduates get jobs upon graduation for how much money. And then they should continue to track their graduates and publish what percentage remain employed in the field after 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, and 30 years.

Rekrul says:

Back in the 1980s, if you wanted to use a computer, you had to learn how to use it. You had to learn what commands to type in, how to format disks, etc.

Now with Windows, the only thing most users know is how to double-click on an icon and to wait for Windows to ask what they want to do with the disc they just put in the drive. If what they want/need to do falls outside those two activities, they’re completely lost. Something as simple as manually changing a file association is a mysterious and complex job that only a “computer whiz” can accomplish. If they don’t download files to the desktop, they have no idea where they downloaded to or how to find them. They have no idea where the music files are actually stored on their drive because everything goes into the “media library”. Reading a text file included on a disc? That’s much too complicated for their poor brains to grasp…

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Back in the 1980s, if you wanted to use a computer, you had to learn how to use it. You had to learn what commands to type in, how to format disks, etc.

Now with Windows, the only thing most users know is how to double-click on an icon and to wait for Windows to ask what they want to do with the disc they just put in the drive.

But that’s progress. You don’t know how to fix a car to drive it.

Look at all the software (Word, Photoshop, etc.), which, while eliminating many jobs for people with specialized skills, allowed ordinary people to do themselves most of the stuff they needed.

Most people don’t work on farms anymore either. Or sew their own clothes.

The goal isn’t necessarily to enable everyone to work on computers, but to allow them to accomplish want they need to do with relatively little technical input.

The ratio of people who design tools should always be smaller than those who use the tools.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

But that’s progress. You don’t know how to fix a car to drive it.

No, but to make your analogy more accurate, the car owner would only know how to start it, drive forward using the gas pedal and stop using the brake. All of the car’s other’s functions would be considered too complicated for them to master. Shifting? You mean you have to remember what all those letters mean? Why do I have turn on these “turn signals”? Why don’t they come on automatically when I turn? This whole “gas pump” thing is way too complicated for me. I’ll have to get my friend the car whiz to help me out with that!

Look at all the software (Word, Photoshop, etc.), which, while eliminating many jobs for people with specialized skills, allowed ordinary people to do themselves most of the stuff they needed.

Yes, they learn a few specialized skils while being completely clueless about the rest. It’s like buying a TV and only ever using the power and volume buttons.

The goal isn’t necessarily to enable everyone to work on computers, but to allow them to accomplish want they need to do with relatively little technical input.

Except that people today spend hundreds or even thousands on a computer, learn how to do one or two specialized things with it, like check their email or browse the internet and that’s usually the extent of their knowledge.

Download an XviD AVI file off the net, burn it to a disc and give it to the average user and they’ll have no clue what to do with it. They’ll stick it in the drive, Windows will offer to play it, they’ll select that option and since a default Windows install lacks a DivX/XviD codec, all they’ll get on the screen is garbage. At this point, they are completely stumped as to what to do next. Using Google to try and figure out the problem never even enters their mind.

Go a step further; Put the installer for a self-contained video player like GOM Player or VLC on the disc, put a ReadMe.txt file on the disc explaining in detail how to install, configure and use the player. Then include a printed set of instructions on how to read the ReadMe file on the disc. Explain to the person that the videos probably won’t play and that they’ll need to follow the instructions and install extra software which is all included on the disc. Know what they’ll do? Put the disc in, let Windows try to play the files and when it doesn’t they’ll give up. Reading a file on the disc and installing software will be deemed much too technical for someone like them and they’ll decide that it’s better if they put it off until you can come over and set everything up for them.

People today don’t even know what a file extension is because the idiots at Microsoft thought it would be a good idea to hide them from people. Everyone goes by the icon. They know what type of icons denote what type of file. Yeah, that works real well when they sit down in front of a different computer with different software installed and all the icons are different. Then they sit there staring at the screen wondering why they can’t recognize any of the files.

Here’s a fun prank; While an average user is away from their computer, right-click on the screen, go into the properties, find the rotation options and flip the screen 180 degrees. See how long they struggle with it before begging you to fix it.

Even better, wait until they leave the room, then rename the Desktop and Start Menu directories so that Windows can’t find them. When they come back, tell them that everything just disappeared. It’s a toss-up whether they’ll spend the money at a repair shop to get it “fixed” or whether they’ll just chuck it and buy a new one.

the wumpus says:

Can’t say much about my kid going into CS. He enjoys maths and science; but his true passion is the Coast Guard (must be all my military stories I told him)! As for the employment forecast, I would say that someone with a good maths background and a strong academic record from an ABET CS or EE / ECE program will not have much trouble finding a job.
I have worked for DoD contractors and the feds, during that time we could rarely fill positions because US citizens could not pass the background checks. My advice: follow your passion, but be realistic about your options — not everyone gets to be an astronaut. Also, learn a foreign language (Mandarin, Japanese, Korean etc..) that way you might still have a job when the Asian countries call due on our debt.
BTW, there is no safe profession — my wife is a nurse and has been unemployed for over 6 months.

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