[Edu-sig] Low Enrollments

David Handy cpif at handysoftware.com
Thu Oct 13 05:45:02 CEST 2005

On Wed, Oct 12, 2005 at 08:25:56PM -0600, Chuck Allison wrote:
> Hello EDU-SIG,
>   CS enrollments seem to be dropping drastically everywhere. Many
>   factors probably are at fault (dot-com bust, off-shoring hype), but
>   there seem to be others. One in particular is that so few HS
>   graduates seem ready analytically to join in.
>   Honestly, I can't imagine a field that better combines both sides of
>   the brain with a service ethic and a dimension of fun than CS. But
>   it looks like so much nerd-ness or drivel to the uninitiated.
>   Any ideas would be appreciated.

I noticed a profound shift occur at Glencoe High School in Hillsboro, Oregon
between 1985 (when I graduated from there) and 1995-1998 when I visited
there to give talks for national engineering week. In one memorable
experience, I spoke to the Biochemistry students, in the same classroom
where I had taken that same class a decade earlier. These were the top 20
math and science students in the school. I asked how many of them wanted to
become engineers. I got zero responses. I was floored. Based on my
experience of the past, I had expected least a handful! I said "engineering
is a good career, it pays good money, why are you not interested?" One kid
raised his hand and said "It's too hard." Another volunteered, "Yeah, I have
a friend who is an engineering student and he has to work all the time." I
was dumbfounded. It appeared as if these kids thought there was a hard road
to success and an easy road to the same success, so planned to take the easy

Chuck, we are up against a more difficult problem than just making CS look
cool. CS is fun, of course, but it is also hard work, there is no disguising
that.  If the rising generation doesn't have the work ethic, there is really
no substitute.

In my experience, I noticed that among the successful American-born
engineering students, a significant number of them had been raised on farms,
where they had to get up at 5am every morning to milk the cows. In other
words, they knew how to work.  So what did I do?  When I lived back in
Oregon, we moved out to the country and we had goats and chickens, and my
boys went out with me morning and evening to milk the goats.  Now that we
live in a different environment in North Carolina, I have taken a different
route and have the boys help me in our home publishing business.  They have
gotten pretty good at binding books. (Just a little plug: anyone who buys my
book is contributing to my children's education in multiple ways.)

David H

David Handy
Computer Programming is Fun!
Beginning Computer Programming with Python

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