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Education Programming

NYC To Open 1st High School Dedicated To Software 188

stephencrane writes "NYC is to open The Academy for Software Engineering, with a focus on software design and college preparation. It'll be a 'limited, unscreened' high school, which means admission won't be tied to grades or test scores; solely on interest (and presumably a lottery, once words gets out)." Would you want to go (or have gone) to such a school? Would you want your kids to attend?
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NYC To Open 1st High School Dedicated To Software

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  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @01:42PM (#38726866)
    This sounds like a trade school. High School should be about learning how to think and process information. Once you've learned how to learn you can go on to learning a trade. Its bad enough so many schools are now about being able to pass tests.
  • by Anrego ( 830717 ) * on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @01:43PM (#38726886)

    I think I would have jumped at the opportunity when I was in school.

    However, looking back, I don’t think it would have been a great idea. I’ve said it many times, but if left to my own devices, I would have spent most of my free time glued to a computer. As it stood I had a few non-computer geek friends who would figuratively drag me out of my basement every once in a while and looking back, I had a lot of fun.

    Maybe I would be a slightly better programmer .. but I think I would have missed out on a lot of important experiences, and more practically, development of social skills (which I’ve found are becoming more important as I’ve progressed through my career).

    In other words, diversity in peers is a good thing. Not having to “deal with” people who are outside of your interests and being surrounded by like minded individuals may sound great, but that kind of narrow focus so early on just sounds like a bad idea.

  • by DeathFromSomewhere ( 940915 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @01:46PM (#38726928)

    How about a High School dedicated to learning?

    You mean all of them? Including the one you seem to be complaining about.

  • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @01:47PM (#38726958)

    My high school was dedicated to passing standardized tests. Learning was just an undesirable side effect that happened to anyone who happened to have a passing interest in the subject at hand.

  • by bonch ( 38532 ) * on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @01:53PM (#38727036)

    This sounds like a trade school. High School should be about learning how to think and process information.

    You don't explain why you believe these things to be mutually exclusive.

    In most standard high schools, you are already able to sign up for classes on particular subjects--Computer Science, Music, Drama, etc. I see little difference between that and attending a school that focuses on particular subfields of a given industry. I would have enjoyed a computer-focused high school, as I spent most of my time on computers in high anyway, and I attended multiple computer classes. It's also an opportunity for shy computer nerds to feel like they can fit in, an environment that a normal high school doesn't always provide. Sadly, a terrible social experience in high school can impact an adult for decades.

  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @02:03PM (#38727176)

    That's ridiculous. Not every person can follow some ancient Greek ideal of higher thought.

    There were plenty of doofuses that spent high school throwing a pencil at the kid in front of them. Trade school is good for them.

    And back on topic, just because someone is good with computers does not make them automatically wired to go through the traditional liberal arts education routine. Some kids will thrive in a targeted environment like this.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @02:07PM (#38727208) Homepage

    The "Joel on Software" guy is involved with this, so he's plugging an activity of his own.

    There's no programmer shortage. Businesses want "just in time" employees with exactly the skill set they need this week. Then they whine when they have to pay market rate for them. They're not willing to retrain their own people, or hire competent people with related skill sets and send them to training classes. Anyone who's competent in at least two programming languages can learn a third in a few months.

    (Actually, the headache today is learning APIs. Everything seems to come with an API with hundreds to thousands of functions, some of which work, some of which sort of work, and some of which don't work at all. The documentation usually consists of examples rather than a reference manual. Worst case, it's a wiki.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @02:26PM (#38727422)

    Yeah I know. Like my plumber. He went to trade school. He makes $240,000 a year. What a dummy!!! He should have been like me and spent years out of the work force studying ancient history, English literature, advanced math that is almost never used by anyone, for anything. Then he could teach information systems at a college like me and be making 20% of what he makes now.

  • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @02:54PM (#38727812)

    Right, but at the highschool level you don't want to overspecialize. One of the great strengths of education comes from what you can do if your job disappears. If all you know how to do is be a brake mechanic, and they suddenly reinvent breaks (say a switch from mechanical to electrical brakes) you're stuck back at job training. If you know absolutely nothing about electricity, because you started this career as a brake mechanic at age 13, you've got a lot of catching up to do.

    The earlier you start that narrow specialization the more difficult it is to fix if something radically changes in the industry. I'm all for more software development in high school, but there is a point of 'too much'. Especially in something like software, where you might be called upon to do physics, math, business, or god knows what, you need to have some idea what those other areas are, so you at least have some concept of how they're all connected to the problem you're trying to solve. Imagine if you get a job in a game studio out of this programme (and then a university degree in something like SE or CS), and that company wants to make a WW2 fighter pilot game. Well you don't really know anything about the physics of flight, and all these people in the office who keep talking about the Big E and Zeros are just completely baffling. Oh and you have no idea where the Philippines are, and what that has to do with Japan.

    There's only so much time you can meaningfully spend teaching someone anything. If you go to a 4 year highschool programme on programming, well, you're going to either be at a 2nd or 3rd year level of university, or you're going to have spent 4 years learning super basic stuff over and over, which doesn't do any favours. Especially if they go on into SE or CS and find they've done 60 or 70% of the course material already. Then you've just wasted a bunch of their time.

    Admittedly, everyone's idea of what base exposure to information everyone should have is going to be different, but I tend to think a broad education until you're about 16 is a good idea. Focusing on getting people into the workforce as software developers at 18 or 19 poses serious problems to their ability to meaningfully participate in anything outside of some very narrow problem areas. You don't really want these guys to graduate, work for 10 or 15 years, find out that suddenly the industry has completely changed, and they don't have the skills to do anything else, nor do they even know what else they might want to do, because they've spent the last 15 years writing php and SQL.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:11PM (#38728030)

    Eeesh as a highschool senior attending what's considered to be one of the best highschools in the area, those two concepts aren't the same to me. It's very easy to pass the standardized tests without understanding the subject. I could also picture someone doing poorly on the standardized test for a subject while understanding the material very well. About half of my classes have great teachers who really want to help us learn, the other half not so much. When I try to ask my chemistry teacher why anything she has us learn happens, she informs me that it's because "that's the rule." Sure, that won't affect my grade on the midterm. I probably aced the midterm on it I took today, but I don't care about the midterm I'm already into multiple colleges and this class isn't required. I took this class because I wanted to learn chemistry, and she isn't very willing to help me do that. Not a huge deal, I have the internet and my dad has a PHD in chemistry, but it's a waste of 45 minutes of my time 5 days a week that could be spent actually learning.

    My best class/teacher is multivariable calculus because the county has no standard curriculum for it. The teacher can spend more time in certain areas if he wants, and go quickly through others if he thinks we have it down. Frequently he'll realize that X concept would really aid our understanding of what we're doing, or just be interesting, and we'll go off on tangent for a few days learning about it. The teacher isn't disorganized, I've had him for math classes with stricter curriculums in the past, he just takes advantage of the situation and it's great. Of course, teachers like him will manage to teach well no matter the curriculum. Teachers like my chemistry teacher... well my chemistry teacher doesn't understand how cubic conversions work. I had to explain it. I'll leave it at that.

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