Thursday, September 3, 2009

Scary Conversations at School Parent Night

Naturally this is about the computer classes.

My 2nd grade daughter is getting computer class, about 45 minutes +/- once a week.
They are teaching them to type, hopefully better than I. They will get to some learning areas of usefulness like how to search online, she knows this, and similar such items.

I asked when do they start teaching programming, or even basic html/website design.
Never at this school(goes to 8th grade), perhaps in senior high school.

Naturally I asked what do they learn over time and the answer was, Word then Excel and Powerpoint of course, because they will use them in school for projects, science class etc. Evidently graphs, something rarely used anymore, is still popular in school.

They have a kid version which acclimates the students to Word through almost a game interface and then they move on to more advanced topics in the programs.

This is Office 2007.

I replied that I expected within a few years that typing would be secondary to voice and that staying the Microsoft path leads to problems, especially if it all changes with each iteration. As it was some parents and teachers had issues with the versions being saved between home and office. Opportunity? Perhaps, one thing at a time.

When questioned why they do not teach more programming was told they learn what is practical for school. I suggested kids these days are much more intelligent than that in addition to the fact that not all families have 2007, most have XP/2000/2003.

Teach a kid to program in Java and you have created a business for them. Possibly a lucrative one. For their age they could make some good spending money.

And what teaches them how to resolve problems? What about how the computer works? What makes it up? How it connects to the Internet or your phone? What telecommunications are for? Why security is important and privacy as well?

Some of this does get covered but in general I left rather unhappy that, yet again, I have to teach my kids something I thought school would be doing. My list of what they don't teach is long already, but this I thought they would learn.

My computer world started when I was 10 and we got the IBM PC so maybe I have to wait a few years to see if the education gets better or my daughter "gets it" but I have a suspicion I will be teaching my kids more than their school in this area. Their teachers better know their stuff by then, especially once my son figures out white hat hacking.


  1. Roll back the clock a good few moons to when I was at school. This is 1982, and my school just introduces "Computer Studies". Well I had already been programming for 2 years by then. BUT they based whoever was going to be on the course on their English grades. Well I was in the bottom grade for English (top for maths) so they decided to exclude me. I complained to my parents, they complained to the school, and I was eventually let into the class.
    Just as well. I ended up "teaching" the teacher who then taught the rest of the class. Needless to say I finished that class with the highest grade possible and thus started my long slippery slope into the world of computer development.

    I think schools really are only interested in covering their own curiculum. They are not really interested in the actual future that the children who take the courses wish to take. I would suggest that you give your children a headstart way beyond what any school can give since schools only want you to reach minimum requirements. It's sad to see that schools no longer challenge you to be the best you can be, they just get you to "acceptable" limit and leave you there.

  2. @Dragon. That's somewhat true in US education. We spend an inordinate amount of resources attempting to bring all children up to a certain level, and kids who are above the average unfortunately are the ones who are robbed in that scenario, as there's no incentive to spend time/money on them. After all, teachers could lose a job if a couple kids fall behind through no fault of the teacher or system (ie: poor parenting), but if a kid is extraordinary, those aren't the ones who get the resources.

    Welcome to political correctness and the reality of standardized testing minimum scoring requirements.

  3. I hear you all and just don't understand the bottom line thinking of education.
    I am sure there are future engineers and IT people in there but unless cultivated early they may not find their way.
    Like to think there is a better way, someplace, sometime.

  4. a) What he said about standardized testing.
    b) Beyond state requirements, committees decide what gets taught. Most of the members aren't programmers. Will they vote-in a programming class? No. Infosec class? No. They'll vote in their favorite subjects, what they've used in business/daily life, and other things they actually understand themselves. This is probably why they also don't have a class on the evils of credit cards and subprime lending. Last I checked, they taught how to balance a checkbook.
    c) Teachers don't get paid much. It is probably hard to get someone to teach Java to a bunch of preteens, if they even tried.

    What your kids learn at home is always more valuable than what they learn at school.

    Lastly, it is possible for a person to go thru all their school years, including college, without ever touching a computer...and still become a programmer. I'm sure I'm not the only one that happened to!

  5. Maria,
    Thanks for your thoughts. I agree it is possible as if one "gets it" it matters not when. A friend of mine's father in his 50's fell in love with desktop publishing and started a whole new career, and he had barely looked at a computer at the time.
    While I don't advocate that all kids learn programming,I think a dual curriculum for programmers and non-programmers should be utilized.
    As to knowing more than the teacher, been there done that many times, sadly it continues today in business too at times.