The news came across my social media links that last year more students took the Advanced Placement Art History exam than took the AP Computer Science exam. Given how much better the job prospects are for computer scientists than for art historians this seems counter intuitive.
To those of us who are fans of computer science that more students take Art History than computer science just feels wrong somehow. It doesn’t quite seem logical.
There are several reasons why students take AP exams besides career interest of course. Several people have suggested that high school students take AP Art History in hopes of avoiding taking a similar course in university. Apparently AP US History is also one such course. For others I am sure interest is a motivating factor. On the other hand I also suspect that a good Art History course can help build more interest in art. That makes taking art history a good thing beyond just avoiding one more general education requirement later on.
That building of interest is one reason I would like to see more students introduced to computer science at an earlier age. Not so that every student takes more computer science in university (though more should) but that they are at least able to develop a greater understanding of computer science and its role in their world.
Computer science is hard. We hear that a lot. That probably scares a lot of students away from it. Especially in schools where AP CS is the first computer science course. that’s pretty understandable. Imagine taking AP Calculus without having any previous math courses! APCS is a terrible first course in computer science. Terrible!
Computer science can and should be introduced to students long before we even suggest they take AP computer science. Computer science done right is fun, it’s exciting, it’s interesting, it’s full of WOW! But that’s not how we usually do it. I’ve written about the importance of the first CS course before of course. I feel strongly about it. I think we can do more than just whole courses though.
There are events that can at least start to build interest. Most of Microsoft’s Digigirlz events show off computer science well for girls. And they are fun! The upcoming Hour of Code program for Computer Science education week is designed to provide a fun successful exposure to computer science for a great many students all over the US.
We, for values of we that include people who want to see more students get involved in computer science, have to do more than just single events in a single week once a year though. There in lays the real challenge!