theodp writes: Over at The Gates Notes, Duke CS grad and former Microsoft employee Melinda Gates laments the lack of women in CS in Computers Are For Girls, Too. "Somewhere along the way, society decided that computers are for boys," Gates writes. "Or, as Aishwarya says, 'guys in hoodies.' And this toxic stereotype becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, virtually guaranteeing that computer science is indeed a male-dominated field."
theodp writes: Workforce Needs, Parent Advocacy Spark Computer Science Initiative, reads the headline of a story on Mississippi's decision to pilot a new K-12 CS curriculum — Computer Science for Mississippi (CS4MS) — this fall. Read on though, and it turns out 'Parent Advocacy' refers to "a 2015 Gallup poll [that] showed 90% of parents want CS courses taught in school." No citation is given, but this factoid would appear to be sourced from a Google report of Google-Gallup poll data from 1,685 parents of 7th to 12th-graders from across the U.S., most of whom Google lamented don't even understand the difference between general computer use and computer science. Still, the Google-Gallup poll results appears to be good enough for government work. Justifying the need for $4.2B to fund his Computer Science For All initiative, President Obama said in January, "Nine out of ten parents want it [computer science] taught at their children's schools." In other K-12 CS education news, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) announced it has been awarded a grant from Google that will be used to implement a "Grassroots Advocacy System" for K-12 CS (no $ amount was disclosed). “Google continues to be one of the leading supporters of CSTA and K-12 Computer Science education," said CSTA Executive Director Mark Nelson.
theodp writes: Never underestimate the power of marketing in creating a national K-12 CS crisis, suggested the National Science Foundation as it gave props to tech-backed Code.org for "its amazing marketing prowess, its Hour of Code, and its success in attracting major funding, [which] has completely changed the national conversation [on K-12 CS]." Which may explain the motivation behind the Arkansas Dept. of Education's #ARKidsCanCode Computer Science Enrollment Contest. "Arkansas will honor schools for their outstanding effort to promote computer science education this coming school year," begins the announcement for the contest, which calls for schools to compete for a to-be-determined "technology prize package" by earning points for, among other things, playing the Governor’s #ARKidsCanCode video (a video called Join the Movement. Learn to Code. is featured on Gov. Asa Hutchinson's YouTube channel) during a school wide opening assembly or over a school wide video system or hosting a Code.org Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week. "An [sic] subsequent commissioner’s memo will be posted in late November with information on the specific drawing date/location, technology prize package, and how properly to submit documentation to the Arkansas Department of Education," adds the memo. The White House praised the leadership of Arkansas as it announced President Obama's proposed $4.2B CS for All initiative in January. Arkansas, which declared a high school CS education state of emergency in early 2015, was awarded a $1 million NSF grant last August to train Arkansas HS computing teachers. Hutchinson teamed up with other governors earlier this year to launch GovsForCS, a partnership that works with Code.org to increase access to K-12 CS classes.
theodp writes: As tech giants Microsoft, Google, and Facebook ready teachers to participate in the $4.2B push to make computer science a part of every young person's K-12 education, the motivation ascribed to their efforts by an abstract for a proposed SXSW Panel on Why Big Tech is Investing in Teaching Tech Early (reg. required, screenshot) might raise eyebrows, especially since the panel speakers listed include Microsoft Research VP Jeannette Wing and Apple Sr. Director of Education Content Jason Ediger. "Big tech companies such as Apple and Facebook are behind efforts to teach young kids computer and coding skills — but not for the reasons you may think," reads the SXSW PanelPicker abstract. "Their push has less to do with winning brand loyalty or raising the next tech workforce and more to do with making sure their current and future customers are tech-fluent so they can understand, use and evolve with the increasing pace of technology. To grow, tech companies need a tech-fluent society and a tech-fluent society has broad applications for learning, science and culture."
theodp writes: Catching himself terminating statements with semicolons out of habit when none were needed, Rick Wicklin asks: Do you write unnecessary code? And while Wicklin tries to skip certain unnecessary statements, there are others that he finds, well, necessary. "Sometimes I include optional statements in my programs for clarity, readability, or to practice defensive programming," he explains. Wicklin's post is geared towards SAS programming, but the question of when to include technically-unnecessary code — e.g., variable declarations, superfluous punctuation, block constructs for single statements, values for optional parameters that are the defaults, debugging/validation statements, non-critical error handling, explicitly destroying objects that would otherwise be deleted on exit, labeled NEXT statements, full qualification of objects/methods, unneeded code from templates — is a language-agnostic one. So when-and-why do you find it necessary to include 'unnecessary' code in your programs? And are you tolerant of co-workers' unnecessary code choices, or do you sometimes go all Tabs-vs-Spaces (YouTube) on them?
theodp writes: In the wake of Brexit, the NY Times reported earlier this month that President Obama will need his oratory powers to sell globalization. Asked to explain his strategy to reverse growing sentiment over globalization, President Obama responded, "The question is not whether or not there's going to be an international global economy. There is one." Still, the President acknowledged, "Ordinary people who have concerns about trade have a legitimate gripe about globalization, because the fact is that as the global economy is integrated, what we've seen are trend lines across the advanced economies of growing inequality and stagnant wages, and a smaller and smaller share of overall productivity and growth going to workers, and a larger portion going to the top 1 percent. And that's a real problem. Because if that continues, the social cohesion and political consensus needed for liberal market economies starts breaking down." The disconnect between theory and reality is at the heart of Ross Hartshorn's Globalization Considered Harmful. "There is a word for people who are opposed to the globalized economy, and it isn't 'xenophobe' or 'racist'," he writes. "It's 'protectionist'. For some time now, it's been thrown around as an insult, as if there were something wrong with protecting people. There was a similar trick played in the U.S. with the word 'liberal', where conservatives used it as an insult long enough that candidates on the left started to avoid describing themselves as liberal. But there is nothing wrong with protecting people, and there is everything wrong with globalization. Globalization isn't about respecting other people's culture, or treating everyone fairly regardless of their race. Globalization is about each country specializing in just one part of a normal, healthy, diverse economy, and then treating anyone whose talents aren't suited to that part of the economy, as if they were defective and in need a handout rather than a job. I think it is time for people who don't like what globalization has done, to start using the word 'protectionist' to describe themselves. I am a protectionist; I think there is nothing wrong with protecting people. The backlash against globalization isn't the problem. Globalization is the problem."
theodp writes: Back in 2014, Gas Station Without Pumps patiently explained that while the case can clearly be made for female and black students being under-represented in Advanced Placement Computer Science exams, pointing to states with zero female or Black AP CS test takers is not the way to do it. Of the eleven states that had no Black test takers in 2013, GSWP explained: "The zero black AP CS test takers for the nine states can be fairly confidently attributed to the lack of AP CS test takers, and in Maine to the shortage of black students. For Alaska, the lack of black AP CS test takers is probably due to the shortage of AP CS test takers in the state." But that didn't stop Facebook from using the dramatic-but-statistically-fallacious arguments on Thursday to explain away its still-1% Black tech workforce. "It has become clear that at the most fundamental level, appropriate representation in technology or any other industry will depend upon more people having the opportunity to gain necessary skills through the public education system," said Facebook Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams, who was tasked with explaining why Facebook's diversity efforts don't seem to be working (Facebook's tech workforce is 48% White, 46% Asian, 3% Hispanic, 1% Black, 2% Other). "Currently, only 1 in 4 US high schools teach computer science," Williams continued. "In 2015, seven states had fewer than 10 girls take the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam and no girls took the exam in three states. No Black people took the exam in nine states including Mississippi where about 50% of high school graduates are Black, and 18 states had fewer than 10 Hispanics take the exam with another five states having no Hispanic AP Computer Science (CS) test takers. This has to change." To give Facebook's innumerate explanation some context, according to 2015 AP Data, Mississippi had a grand total of five AP CS test takers. And in the three states where no girls took the exam — Montana, Mississippi, and Wyoming — boys respectively took zero, five, and three AP CS exams.