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Funding for Technology Classes? 81

Posted by Cliff
from the proper-priorities-for-education dept.
SelfTaught asks; "My school district recently built a brand new football stadium and athletics field-house, both with state of the art electronics; yet when asked about implementing a computer science class district officials reply with, 'This is a property poor school district.' Apparently property poor school districts have 20 foot plasma scoreboards and multi-million dollar athletic training facilities. As a pubescent high school student, I'm not very happy with the way my district spends the money my parents pay for my education. How can I encourage my district to provide more technology classes? If I can't get technology education in school, then what would be the best way to teach myself?"
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Funding for Technology Classes?

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  • Get Real (Score:5, Interesting)

    by agent dero (680753) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:03PM (#16171149) Homepage
    I graduated from a small town high school in south texas, and the district was pretty damn broke when I left it, but our atheletic facilities were pretty decent.

    Keep in mind most southern schools have "Booster Clubs" which are responsible most of the time for raising funds for the sports specifically. The only "booster club" for academics comes straight out of the general budget for the district. Meanwhile, you've got a bunch of meat heads washing cars, taking donations, etc, in a town full of people who are more than willing to fork over money for their friday night football game.

    In most districts (i have lived in), sports and education are on different budgets.
  • My suggestions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by linguae (763922) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:12PM (#16171217)

    My first suggestion is to find some other students at your school interested in computer science. A school isn't going to add a computer science course unless there is a sizable amount of students who are interested. After you find other interested students, get a proposal for a new class going. Get a few signatures of students and parents (and maybe some interested teachers) and take it to the principal's office (or whomever else deals with course offerings). If it works, then great. If not, then try again next year.

    In the meanwhile, I suggest that you read Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs [mit.edu]. This is the book that is used for the freshman computer science class at MIT. Find yourself a Scheme interpreter (and maybe even invest some time into learning Unix and maybe installing Linux or BSD if you're a Windows user. Unix, not Windows, is the main operating system used in computer science.). This book can get difficult, but you'll be very knowledgeable about the true meaning of computer science via that book. Then, after reading and finishing that book, then move on to learning C (for structured programming) and C++ or Java (for OO programming). Now that you have the theoretical background of programming understood, now you should learn some practical programming languages that you'll use for upper-division CS courses (operating systems, software engineering, systems programming, and the like) and in future industry jobs or research.

    Finally, during your junior year of high school, start finding some good CS schools to apply to. MIT, Berkeley, Stanford, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, University of Texas at Austin, Harvey Mudd, and others that I've forgot now are very good undergraduate computer science schools. These schools are challenging enough to fully teach you computer science and prepare you for either a career in software engineering and development, or a research career.

    I wish you a successful start in computer science.

  • by fishdan (569872) * on Saturday September 23, 2006 @09:38PM (#16171667) Homepage Journal
    You don't need any financial resources to learn computer science, except for a teacher.
    We now know that electronic technology has no more to contribute to computing than the physical equipments. We now know that programmable computer is no more and no less than an extremely handy device for realizing any conceivable mechanism without changing a single wire, and that the core challenge for computing science is hence a conceptual one, viz. what (abstract) mechanisms we can conceive without getting lost in the complexities of our own making.

    E.W. Dijkstra

    If you really want to learn computer science, tell your math teachers you want a class like this one [umb.edu] or one on the Theory of Computation [amazon.com]. Make sure you tell them you want to learn the pumping lemma! Computer Science is Math. If you want to learn about COMPUTERS, as opposed to computer science, then you don't want to learn computer science, you want to learn IT. If you want to learn to program, just pick up any "learn bad coding habits in 24 days" book, and get cracking. I personally recommend letting C be your first language, because you'll think everything else is so much nicer after that.

    As far as money goes, when John Dillinger was asked why he robbed banks, he said "because that's where the money is."

    The reason football teams have booster clubs is because they work. The same thing will work for high tech, and they have more money. Try to get some local company with smart people to get involved. They will have financial resources and expertise that you don't. I answered an ad in the local newspaper to help the students at my local high school organize a computer club. Organize the club, get local businesses to contribute, get local developers/database guys to come and lecture. Pretty soon, you'll have a club with enough going on to ask for a real class.

    The club also answers your question: "If I can't get technology education in school, then what would be the best way to teach myself?" Working on learning something with a group is a great way to learn things. Get the club going, and then say "this month we're going to learn foobar!"

    You're on your way.

  • by A Brand of Fire (640320) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @09:48PM (#16171703) Homepage

    Pick something you want to learn. Download it, RTFM, and play with it.

    You'll have better luck if you have a concrete objective in mind, i.e. learn about databases by setting up a simple database to track your comic book collection, run queries against it, make a PHP front end to search it etc.

    I went to high school in a very small town (less than 2,500 registered) in a relatively poor Bible Belt county. Athletics and religion were the primary focuses of the education they offered. In fact, one of my teachers in particular, a world history/economics/law and government/civil studies teacher, had this strange notion of relating every facet of history, science or government to the bible or biblical scripture, often when it would have absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter at hand. Now, I'm not one against people's varying religious or spiritual practices, but such a blatant and patented disregard for objectivity in lieu of personal belief was simply unacceptable in a teacher.

    Basically, if it didn't have anything to do with God or the football team, there was a good chance it wasn't going to receive much attention from the upper-echelon, let alone the school board.

    That was only one of many differences I had with the local establishment and, as misfortune would have it, the method you've recommended was something I had to apply to my general education, not just my education in technology. In the sphere of technology education, I mean, we at least had effing LOGO classes when I was in second grade (in the next county over), and we got time every week to program in BASIC on the Apple IIe. In my high school, we didn't even have a computer lab until my last year, and even then it was used only for the computer club, which met twice every nine weeks.

    The state of general education in the US is pitiable at best and my high school's abilities to meet my learning requirements directly reflect that. While I'd like to say that it was only a singular representation, it's far more widespread than that and to greater degrees both above and below the thin bracket of average educational competency.

    The system couldn't meet my needs as an adolescent of above-average intelligence, and in the end it was up to me and my parents to request that I—an underage student at the time—use a county-based program normally allocated for dropouts to get their high school diplomas without having to resort to a GED. Though I graduated and got a diploma from my high school, I was lucky that such a loophole existed.

    A lot of kids, both of above-average and below-average intelligence have special learning needs, none of which are met by the system currently in place. And with the increasing proliferation of technology into all areas of our lives, education in this field is becoming especially important.

    So you or your parents taking your education into your own hands is probably the best advice to be given at the moment. Well, that and contacting county, state, and federal government representatives in regards to education reform because local bureaucrats and school board officials aren't liable to do much of anything.

  • by Iron Condor (964856) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @11:27PM (#16172123)

    And 3200 people, of no fault of their own, died by the hands of cowards.

    It continues to puzzle me where Americans, who kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians by dropping bombs onto them from great altitude, out of airplanes, without any threat to the health or well-being of the bomber, get the gall to use the term "coward" in reference to people who were willing to die for the completion of their mission. Whatever the 9/11-perpetrators were, they were most ceratinly not cowards.

"No problem is so formidable that you can't walk away from it." -- C. Schulz

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