William Green: Add code to the curriculum

By 2018, there will be nearly three times as many job openings requiring computer science knowledge as there will be qualified applicants, according to a study by a Yale University professor.

To adequately prepare students to become productive members of a 21st century workforce, the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences must add a computer science component to its core requirements.

Education needs to be relevant, and computer science is poised to transform nearly every field of academic study, whether it’s politics, economics, science or even English. As the study by Yale professor Elizabeth Stark noted, today’s hyper-competitive job market demands at least a basic understanding of computer science to make a resume stand out, regardless of the industry.

Columbian College students are required to take math and natural science courses, pillars of any liberal arts education. But department heads recognize that some of the skills necessary to flourish in those topics don’t come so easily to everyone, which is why they offer introductory courses like Contemporary Science for Non-Science Majors. Given the range of computer science topics, the department could offer similar courses to fulfill that academic need.

Humanities majors could take advantage of the nearly unlimited Internet platforms and might benefit from the cultural and social dynamics at play in online communities.

The advantage of a liberal arts education is that it exposes students to a variety of disciplines.

Computer science seems like a daunting field. Some think that the skills techies have are so innate that if you’re not born with that mindset, the concepts are hard to grasp.

That’s been proven false by a number of online programs that make code easy for the average person to learn. Codecademy.com offers free, step-by-step lessons in topics and languages ranging from HTML to Python and Ruby.

And recent studies on mental skill development counter the argument that some can’t grasp these concepts, computer science professor Rahul Simha said.

“Over a hundred years of dogma in neuroscience has recently been overturned. It is now understood that the brain is elastic,” Simha told me, referring to the property of the brain known as neuroplasticity, in which it forms new neural connections and networks based on intellectual exposure and activity. “What that means to me is that anyone can learn any skill. How much they put into it is all dependent on effort.”

And while some might disagree, changing times call for an innovative approach. We are on the verge of an academic transformation, and the institutions that recognize it and take advantage of the opportunities will reap the rewards.

William Green is a junior majoring in American studies.

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