There was a debate arising out of an incident at OSDC 2006 which prompted this comment in the blogsphere. Note that this post is about the teaching of computer courses, not the original incident, which already seems to have generated enough heat and noise.

Why there's few women in IT
The computer science programs are padded with so many inconsequential classes to make up a full degree. Who really needs assembly language now? And we have a class in Pascal one day, and databases the next -- without any rhyme or reason how these interface into the real world.

Let me start off by saying that more women in the computer profession would be a good thing, I don't why there are so few and I don't think I have any particularly good ideas about how to get more.

However I do have strong views that we should be more rigorous in teaching computer subjects and that there should be a bias towards teaching core fundamental technologies as a basis for future learning. So I would expect to see some basic electronics, assembler programming, compiler writing, OS theory (and with access to OSS operating systems students can actually to practical lab work), data structures, algorithm analysis and so on.

The value of such knowledge is threefold:
  1. Students have a mental model into which more advanced ideas and technology understanding may added
  2. In future life solving real problems is much easier when you have a wider understanding of the technologies under which your system is running.
  3. It become easier to assimilate the many new ideas that sweep over the industry every few years e.g. the move to OO from Structured programming.
I see too many undergraduates with no core computer skills. All they are fit for is project management (with apologies to the many few excellent project managers I know)


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