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Education Government Programming United States Politics

Obama Calls For $4B 'Computer Science For All' Program For K-12 Schools (washingtonpost.com) 246

Etherwalk writes: President Obama plans to announce a four billion dollar computer science initiative for K-12 schools, where fewer than 15 percent of American high schools offer Advanced Placement (i.e. college 101) Computer Science courses. This is still very much open to negotiation with Congress, because it is part of a budget request from the President. So write your Congressman if you support it. The $4 billion would be doled out over a period of three years to any state that applies for the funds and has a well-designed plan to expand access to computer science courses, especially for girls and minorities.
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Obama Calls For $4B 'Computer Science For All' Program For K-12 Schools

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  • by UsuallyReasonable ( 2715457 ) on Saturday January 30, 2016 @11:29AM (#51402937)
    After all, everybody eats. Not everyone is a programmer.
    • by dfn5 ( 524972 ) on Saturday January 30, 2016 @11:46AM (#51403065) Journal
      Do kids not take Home Ec anymore? I took it. I still cook and sew to this day. But by all means, shoot down programming for everyone. The rest of the world is leaving the US behind. Let's help them do it faster.
      • by Etcetera ( 14711 ) on Saturday January 30, 2016 @12:00PM (#51403147) Homepage

        Do kids not take Home Ec anymore?

        No, they don't. That wasn't offered for much of the 90's (at least in San Diego, CA) and whatever was left was dismantled in the 2000's.

        There's a Regional Occupation Program that still provides a path for shop/trades, but I don't believe that's resulted in Home Ec coming back.

        Besides, nowadays it'd probably be considered sexist somehow, no matter what the gender ration was.

        • Costs money to equip a classroom with appliances and supply it with raw materials used in cooking - money that can be "put to better use" increasing test scores and such, because increasing test scores increases funding in the NCLB model - teaching people practical life skills is not rewarded.

          • by lsllll ( 830002 )

            Costs money to equip a classroom with appliances and supply it with raw materials used in cooking - money that can be "put to better use" increasing test scores and such, because increasing test scores increases funding in the NCLB model - teaching people practical life skills is not rewarded.

            You know what costs a lot more than equipping a single classroom with appliances (which are usually donated anyway)? Turf on the fucking football field. And get off the test score bandwagon. Test scores don't mean shit and shouldn't translate to dollars. We need to change all that mentality, specially when teachers teach to the test and only on how to get a better test score. We just need better teachers.

          • It's probably more the insurance cost and the threat of lawsuits that is keeping out the classes rather than the cost of setup and materials. God forbid if little Johnny or Mary gets burnt.

            • It's probably more the insurance cost and the threat of lawsuits that is keeping out the classes rather than the cost of setup and materials. God forbid if little Johnny or Mary gets burnt.

              You are likely correct, and this makes it all the more sad. There is very little common sense left in the US. Lawyers have outlawed it in favor of settlements and jury awards.

        • Besides, nowadays it'd probably be considered sexist somehow, no matter what the gender ration was.

          When I was in school, home ec was not an elective. It was mandatory and you spend half a year cooking and half a year sewing with finance and budgeting in both. I believe this was in 7th or 8th grade though. You only took it one year.

          We also had an introduction to computers course with the brand new apple IIe computers replacing our unix mainframe connection. We did a short stent in basic but most no one was a

          • When I was in school, home ec was not an elective. It was mandatory and you spend half a year cooking and half a year sewing with finance and budgeting in both. I believe this was in 7th or 8th grade though. You only took it one year.

            Home Ec and Shop were mandatory classes for everyone back when I was in 7th and 8th grade, in a public school in NY State. One class period (of the day) was devoted to these classes -- 1/2 of the year was for shop, the other half for home-ec. In seventh grade, we learned sewing and woodwork; eighth grade was cooking and metalwork.

            We sewed aprons and chef hats in seventh grade; the home-ec teacher stored what we made, then we wore them in 8th grade cooking classes.

            I didn't really appreciate mandatory hom

            • by gfxguy ( 98788 )

              Same here - took home ec. (although, ironically, we didn't do any actual economics, no financing or budgeting); cooking and sewing. The year before we did wood working, plastics (yes, we designed and molded some simple stuff) and photography. I live in the south now, my kids haven't taken any of those things.

              While I support the general idea of getting everybody familiar with computers, it's again one of those programs that should be an elective, and not forced on anybody. I might agree that a general com

          • We did a short stent

            Crikey. My school didn't even offer anatomy, let alone surgery.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Do kids not take Home Ec anymore? I took it. I still cook and sew to this day. But by all means, shoot down programming for everyone. The rest of the world is leaving the US behind. Let's help them do it faster.

        Money is a scarce resource, and it strikes me as idiotic in the extreme to think that we should spend money on the brainless notion that "everyone" should be a programmer. And if you're really worried about the world "leaving the US behind", one area in which they are certainly doing so is in not being fat. Maybe if people learned to cook, instead of consuming Happy Meals, we could compete on that front, eh?

        • Money is a scarce resource, and it strikes me as idiotic in the extreme to think that we should spend money on the brainless notion that "everyone" should be a programmer.

          The idea isn't that everyone will be a programmer. The idea is that if students can apply Maths, they're more likely to do better in Math class. Right now, so many students don't see the point of post Geometry math. But if they could actually apply Math via programming it'll help with a lot of the rest of their schooling.

          Another thing which would be very beneficial would be to show students the potential of what computers can do. That way when they get into whatever they get into as adults, they might see p

        • by gfxguy ( 98788 )

          Agreed... with this, and your responses to the snarky anonymous cowards. Most kids are already familiar with using computers, as it seems to be a part of most schools curriculum, and we don't need to spend more tax dollars on that given that the likes of MS, Apple, and Dell happily give away or heavily discount stuff to schools (expecting it will benefit them in the long run).

          Better cooking classes would do a lot more for the health of the U.S. than CS classes will do for the competitiveness of the U.S..

      • You're absolutely right. Kids in the US are completely deprived of exposure to and opportunity to use computer equipment. For those that are interested there's no way they could possibly get or afford training in the subject. /Sarcasm

        • For those that are interested there's no way they could possibly get or afford training in the subject.

          Is there any subject taught in school where that isn't true? I don't think that should be standard for what can be taught in public education.

      • It was removed from our schools. Apparently we're so concerned about food allergies that I can no longer take homemade foods into the school that are intended for sharing (i.e. cupcakes for a birthday, cookies for a "holiday" party--we're not allowed to call it a Christmas party anymore, seriously). It has to be a commercially made product with nutrition label and full ingredients list.

        Cost may also be a factor, but that wasn't cited by our school system. It was allergies.

    • and highly profitable for businesses. Teaching cooking is expensive (ovens, cooking supplies, etc) and only moderately profitable (I don't count Fast Food as "cooking").

      The cynic in me wants to say this is just another way to depress tech wages so long as we're not shutting down the H1-B prog. The even more cynic in me says this is the only way Obama could get anyone to agree to fund education in this god-forsaken country after 30 years of tax cuts and tax havens for the 1%.
      • Isn't cooking your own meals from ingredients for yourself or others cheaper than buying prepared meals? It would be useful to teach kids a life skill they can use to save money. Not everything has to be career orientated.

        • by creimer ( 824291 )

          Isn't cooking your own meals from ingredients for yourself or others cheaper than buying prepared meals?

          Yes. But the processed food manufacturers wouldn't be happy to see their profits decline if more people did that.

          • by gfxguy ( 98788 )

            It's often cheaper to by pre-processed crap; not only that, but it's faster and more convenient.

            Even things that aren't necessarily all that bad (but still healthier if you made them yourself)... Consumer Reports noted that supermarket rotisserie chickens are often loss-leaders to get people into the store. A whole, prepared chicken with spices and already cooked can cost the same, or even less, than a frozen chicken.

            But by using low quality cuts of meats and chickens, and amortizing the costs of other ing

        • if you buy beans and rice and eat only that (and a vit-b1 supplement) then yes. But other than that eating off dollar menus is, dollar per calorie, still cheaper. It'll kill you in your 40s, but then again if you're eating off dollar menus for a living you probably don't have much chances anyway. You could also try living off cheap bread you make yourself, but that _will_ kill you from malnutrition. Cheap flour is genuinely bad for you.

          I've been eating clean and cooking my own means for about 3 months n
        • Isn't cooking your own meals from ingredients for yourself or others cheaper than buying prepared meals?

          Possibly, but possibly not. It depends upon if you're good a buying bulk, and looking for deals. Also, it depends on if you've made the upfront capital investments to acquire the hardware to do a lot of cooking. Also, it depends upon how much your time is worth.

    • Not every computer science student is a programmer.

      Being knowledgeable about computers, how they work, how to use them, and even how to program them, isn't about training the whole world to be programmers any more than teaching basic biology is about training the whole world to be doctors. Sure, your average high school graduate today has more, and more accurate, medical knowledge than your average physician of 1000 years ago, but that doesn't mean we're all physicians today.

      "Computers" are still a black a

    • AFAIK Home Economics is still a class. Not one that is going to lead to a career, however. 5 hours a week on Programming, vs 5 hours a week on cooking is going to lead to a much better long term career with regards to overall job options.

      Having worked in the restaurant industry in my youth, I'm damned glad I didn't stay there for my entire career.

      As far as a major investment in education that will benefit the country as a whole, I'd rather we tried to make more computer fluent tech workers than fast food fr

      • IMHO, K-12 education should be targeted towards providing the student basic life skills, and preparing them for a lifetime of learning in whatever field they choose. The basics about humanities, science, math, language, and the everyday skills of cooking, repair (yes, basic shop should still be around), and balancing a budget/checkbook. Then post-12 grade education - college/university or trade school - should be for your career.
    • That is a rather insightful thought . . . I have seen some code, and thought, "I wouldn't serve this to starving buzzards!"

      Some folks shouldn't try to cook . . . and they shouldn't try to program either.

    • Hey, hey, just because a "How to budget and take care of yourself after your parents kick your lazy ass out" would be infinitely more useful than AP CS classes is no reason not to throw money at them.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday January 30, 2016 @11:32AM (#51402965)

    I weep for those 4 billions. What good we could have done with it, how many ivory back scratcher could have been bought...

    Don't get me wrong. I am all for teaching as many people as possible how to create code for computers. The problem is that very, very few people have the required mindset to do so. Yes, with current RAD tools pretty much anyone can create some kinda code that sorta works. Personally, I call this development "total job security for the foreseeable future".

    Why?

    Because I'm in Infosec.

    The amount of cargo-cult programming is stunning already. And with kids who don't give half a shit about programming, this is going to get worse. Especially when you make those kids think they can when in fact they can't. Remember the old saying: Those who can do, those who can't teach. And now ponder what greatness will come out of this.

    No. Sorry. Programming is something you have to want to do if you want to do it right. And let's be blunt here, code that's just plainly WRONG, we already have enough of.

    • I couldn't agree more ... you could do FAR more to educate those kids than spend it on teaching them to code.

      How about a $4 billion school lunch program, or extra teachers, or tutoring, or athletics programs, or teaching them all the things they barely have the resources for now?

      This is just a huge monkey sink, created as a vanity/legacy project by rich assholes who think the world needs to code, instead of looking what kids actually need.

      This isn't really about improving the lives of kids and improving edu

      • Dumping $4B into the system from the federal level to address the same old stuff would just be instantaneously translated into a tax break for property owners at the county level (who fund education) and create a big bureaucratic oversight program that would still fail to prevent fraud and mis-allocation of funds.

        At least with a directed program, directed into an area that is currently hardly funded at all, we can hope to see something tangible as a result of the program - and if it demonstrates value, when

        • LOL - like tax rates would be cut? Not a chance! This would just be a reason for the local school district to buy some more "advanced" IT systems, and hire more expensive support staff (not teachers), thus justifying ever INCREASING tax rates in the future because of the bigger non-classroom staff and equipment maintenance.
      • How about a $4 billion school lunch program,

        Um, negative ROI?

        or extra teachers, or tutoring

        To teach the students CS?

        or athletics programs,

        I don't think that we need more of my tax dollars going to football.

        or teaching them all the things they barely have the resources for now?

        The students will probably be better at understanding math concepts if they could apply them when programming CS assignments. And then when they start doing better at math, and can see how it can be applied, it'll probably trickle over to being better in science class.

    • they're making rank and file coders who can crank out VB apps. Anyone with a decent education can do that, and if you think otherwise you're just lying to yourself. Yes, the code won't be as pretty as yours, but it'll work (mostly). Plus thanks to all the extra competition for jobs those new programmers will work an extra 20 hours a week for free fixing the bugs their weaker skills create. What else can they do? There are no blue collar jobs in this country because white collar voters keep putting right-win
      • The code will be atrociously insecure, have unpredictable behaviour in extreme situations and will generally cost more money than it could ever save.

        If anything, it will create jobs for 8 bucks an hour code barfers that create jobs for 80 bucks an hour programmers to fix the fuckup. How the fuck this is supposedly saving money is something you still have to show me.

    • It's not about teaching everybody to be programmers of back-end, high reliability, heavy workload, widely deployed systems.

      I think it's like teaching basic biology in high school, not because we will all become brain surgeons, but because that basic knowledge helps everyone (who has a biological body...)

      We all use computers and right now most people have literally zero clue as to what goes on behind the interface.

    • I weep for those 4 billions. What good we could have done with it,

      The "good" is that the future politicians and lawyers making future laws will at least have had some exposure to programming.

      • Like they now have exposure to mathematics, physics and chemistry? Look at the laws and tell me with a straight face that they have any idea of any of these topics.

    • very, very few people have the required mindset to [create code]

      While there's some truth to this, the self-congratulatory attitude that comes with it has ruined the entire field.

      Prior to the 90's, programming was about solving problems, and a good solution was a simple solution. Then soccer moms entered the field and programmers didn't feel so special anymore. (Exaggerating only slightly) They responded by making everything as complex as possible, and turned from problem solving to learning minutiae, so that only autistic people want to do the job, and now they can call

    • No. Sorry. Programming is something you have to want to do if you want to do it right. And let's be blunt here, code that's just plainly WRONG, we already have enough of.

      So your argument is that now, when there's no public education for programming and lots of people self teach themselves, that there's lots of bad programs. But if everyone got a foundation in programming, and more got exposed to it who wouldn't have other wise, that there all programs would become even worse?

  • It's just a few posts in on this topic, but it's interesting that nobody thinks this is a good idea. Don't get me wrong, I agree with all the posts, because computer programming cannot be shoved down anybody's throat and this $4B won't make everyone a programmer. Those that have the interest will find a way to satisfy that interest. Becoming a good computer programmer is much more than taking a class. It involves night after night of hacking on the keyboard and writing program after program until you're
  • ... to just take that $4 billion, and cut a "bonus" check to every IT worker in America.

    The problem isn't that women don't know how to program as well as men, it's that the field just isn't as attractive to them. Woman tend to value job stability over income, and it's hard to find that kind of stability in IT. IT requires a lot of brains, a lot of hard work, isn't very social, has a lot of guys with behavioral issues, and their job might get outsourced to India so the MBA middle manager can get his quart

    • by creimer ( 824291 )

      Woman tend to value job stability over income, and it's hard to find that kind of stability in IT.

      Where I work in government IT, many of my coworkers are women. Most of them served in the military.

      40 hour work weeks, reasonable pay for the work/brainpower involved, job security, etc.

      I get 40 hours a week (no overtime), pay is respectable but I could get 40% more in the private sector with fewer perks, job security for the next four years as project contract is fully funded, I get federal holidays off, a full benefit package, and 20 paid time off days.

  • If you want to fix public education... you have to fire the incompetent teachers.

    No more tenure. No more rubber rooms. No more excuses.

  • As long as education in America is deliberately broken with bullshit like common core, overtesting leading kids in the single-digits to lose sleep over school anxiety, and so on, this can only possibly be a handout to certain corporations which will be specially selected in a bullshit process. Obama's legacy is going to be crying crocodile tears about children in this country while blowing them up in other countries.

  • How about teaching English, Math, Science and such first? US students are in many cases barely able to read and fail miserably at math. Let's get everyone up to a first world level before we worry about computer science for everyone. CS should be an elective.

    • by creimer ( 824291 )

      How about teaching English, Math, Science and such first?

      I didn't learn that stuff until I got into college. Then again, maybe I was the exception. I got misdiagnose as being mentally retarded due to an undiagnosed hearing problem (didn't help that I looked like the poster child for mongolism), spent eight years being treated like a well-behaved idiot in special ed, never went to high school and taught myself at home, and went to community college because I blew out the entrance exam for the adult high school diploma program.

      • I didn't learn that stuff until I got into college. Then again, maybe I was the exception.

        You certainly were.

        Most Americans never learn them.

    • by nbauman ( 624611 )

      How about teaching English, Math, Science and such first? US students are in many cases barely able to read and fail miserably at math. Let's get everyone up to a first world level before we worry about computer science for everyone. CS should be an elective.

      Jeff Atwood for Education Secretary.

      http://www.nydailynews.com/opi... [nydailynews.com]
      Learning to code is overrated: An accomplished programmer would rather his kids learn to read and reason
      BY Jeff Atwood
      NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
      Sunday, September 27, 2015, 5:00 AM

      Mayor de Blasio is winning widespread praise for his recent promise that, within 10 years, all of New York City’s public schoolchildren will take computer science classes. But as a career programmer who founded two successful software startups, I am deeply

    • US students are in many cases barely able to read and fail miserably at math.

      It's possible that they fail miserably at math because they never get to apply to math beyond busy work. But if they spend some time programming, and can see how many of the math principles apply to something, many will start getting better at math.

  • I fully support this.
  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Saturday January 30, 2016 @11:54AM (#51403125)

    Think Tanks: How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law [slashdot.org]: In 2012, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings hosted a forum on STEM education and immigration reforms, where fabricating a crisis was discussed as a strategy to succeed with Microsoft's agenda after earlier lobbying attempts by Bill Gates and Microsoft had failed. "So, Brad [Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith]," asked the Brookings Institution's Darrell West at the event, "you're the only [one] who mentioned this topic of making the problem bigger. So, we galvanize action by really producing a crisis, I take it?" "Yeah," Smith replied (video). And, with the help of nonprofit organizations like Code.org and FWD.us that were founded shortly thereafter, a national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis was indeed created.

    Microsoft supports White House initiative to expand access to computer science [microsoft.com]: " Microsoft is one of many companies in the tech sector that is committed to this effort [said Microsoft President Brad Smith]. In addition to our business initiatives, those of us who are involved in philanthropy, including such groups as Code.org [code.org], will do more. The private sector and philanthropy cannot fill this gap without public funding. And if we're going to accelerate progress as a nation, we need federal funding. That's why today's proposal is so important. It can provide the accelerant to help more states and school districts progress more quickly."

  • Do they mean coding (AP computer science)? The higher-level design stuff? System administration? Information security? The article mentioned AP Computer Science, so we'll be the world's leader in Java programming.

    Also, the benefit might not be employment as a programmer per se, but simply using programs as part of one's day job..

    • by creimer ( 824291 )
      Maybe turning on a computer? When I worked at the Google help desk, I had to walk a recent Stanford University graduate through the process of turning on his own computer. The only computers he ever had access to was the computer labs at school that someone else turned on. You're be surprised by how many software engineers don't know much about computer hardware.
    • by Intron ( 870560 )

      Do they mean coding (AP computer science)? The higher-level design stuff? System administration? Information security? The article mentioned AP Computer Science, so we'll be the world's leader in Java programming.

      Also, the benefit might not be employment as a programmer per se, but simply using programs as part of one's day job..

      Programming or "using programs" has as much relationship to Computer Science as Welding does to Metallurgy. CS is about algorithms, data structures, efficiency, numerical analysis, etc.

      • Programming or "using programs" has as much relationship to Computer Science as Welding does to Metallurgy. CS is about algorithms, data structures, efficiency, numerical analysis, etc.

        You know that, but do the people voting on this legislation know it?

  • Step 1) Take money from states' citizens under threat of violence.

    Step 2) Only give it back if those states promise to use it in the manner demanded by the federal government.

    And because the SCOTUS doesn't admit any limitations on the reasons or extent of federal taxation, the feds can get whatever they want via taxation.

  • THere are around 50 million students in the states... 4 Billion dollar initiative would bean about 80 per student. Doled out over three years is around 27 dollars per student. I'm sure that the money will be spread equally among all students. So a small school district like the one in which I work would receive about 27,000 dollars.

    To teach programming as a k-12 prograpm will require new teachers as all the current teachers are aready teaching their subjects (6-12).
    To teach programming as a K-12 prog
    • Getting new teachers. That's funny. All they are going to do is get the existing teachers to take a course during the summer if they choose to take it and then have them teach the courses no matter what. In high school my computer science course was taught by the math teacher.

  • We already have math for all, which is of course good. But we do not have AP calculus for all, or at least not in some enforced manner, which is also good and very practical. If states approach this in a sane and practical manner, this could be good. A comprehensive but still basic computer literacy would be good. But we can't teach skills that will be utterly obsolete by the time they graduate. Instead of teaching kids the basics in the form of WIndows 10, teach them fundamental concepts as viewed through
  • On the one hand, low-grade unskilled programming is a job that will be automated out of existence soon enough, so promoting this as "jobs for the new economy" strategy is misguided.

    On the other hand, introducing things like "logic" and "arithmetic" and "logic + arithmetic" into the thinking of the average American cannot be a bad idea.

  • Bill Gates has been trying to unseat Apple grip on the education market for decades. You might as well read this as Gov't pays Microsoft $4B to put Windows into every school and a tablet in every home.
  • 26 years ago, I was 12 years old, sitting with my 9 year-old sister, on the carpet of our parents' bedroom, watching tvision via UHF -- how's that for dating myself?

    A commercial came on, for what I do not recall, and as with nearly ALL commercials back then, it ended with a big giant telephone number. But unlike most, it had a small domain name beneath. I turned to my baby-sister and said "look sis', one day that domain name will be bigger than the telephone number".

    A year later, I had started my web deve

  • What's the point of encouraging Americans to go into Computer Science when the government will just allow companies to replace them with cheap H1-B visa later? Teach Americans to be project managers, sorry "scrum masters", so that they can spend their time bossing around the H1-B visa labor and then trying to explain to middle management why the super cheap labor can't produce quality software.

  • It is more useful in more fields, and would be good for the democracy.
  • So we agree that farm laborers might not need to know how to program computers. Most people don't need that information, and it doesn't apply well to any other area of interest.

    But there is something that can benefit everyone including future programmers.

    Logic. Real logic, not that soft stuff mentioned to high school or jr college students. Real logic is a form of algebra and uses algebra type symbols to analyze constructs of language and reasoning. It may be offered as a class for philosophy majors in bett

  • Even as a big supporter of CS in Education I can't see any value for the K-6 range. I think that CS should come before algebra, but it's pretty pointless to come before arithmetic. Middle school is the time to introduce CS/Programming to students.
  • We need better programmers, not more of them. Too many monkeys slinging stinky bits around. We need more doctors, nurses, and other health professionals.

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