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Computer science should be a graduation requirement

 Written by Akansha Gupta

Computers today play a much larger role in careers than they did five or ten years ago. As computers become increasingly integrated into our daily lives, so does the demand for coding literacy. The new push to make computer science a graduation requirement will provide greater opportunities to Gunn students by giving them vital skills which will help them be more competitive in their professional careers and will also help reduce the gender and race gap in computer science.

Computing jobs are the largest source of new wages in the country, according to Code.org: 71 percent of all new jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are in computing.

Even jobs in areas which are not traditionally associated with computer science like biology and design can prefer programming experience. Coding skills automate busywork and eliminate trivial tasks so that workers can spend more time in their area of specialization. Individuals who cannot program are therefore at a disadvantage. Burning Glass, a job market analysis company, goes as far as to say roughly half of the jobs in the top income quartile—those paying $57,000 or more per year—are in occupations that commonly require applicants to have at least some computer coding knowledge.

However, computer science is a field dominated by non-minority men. Long-standing stereotypes about who does well in science and math have been detrimental to women and minority races for decades. College Board statistics show that of the 30,000 students who took the AP Computer Science test in 2013, fewer than 20 percent were female. Just eight percent were Hispanic and only three percent were African-American. Making computer science mandatory will therefore give minority groups the exposure they require to realize that they can be good at computer science. In fact, Computer Science Education Week says women who try AP Computer Science in high school are 10 times more likely to major in it in college than those who don’t. Similarly, African-American and Hispanic students who take the class are seven times as likely to major in the subject.

The decision to add a new graduation requirement will probably be unpopular among the first few grade levels which will have to take a mandatory computer science class. Schedules are already tight and computer science has the unfair reputation of being difficult. Students who are certain their interest lies in the humanities will argue they don’t need computer science. Yet, a basic programming class focused on exposing students to the applications of coding would be eye-opening for many. For this reason, the district should make computer science a graduation requirement.

Besides teaching students how computers affect them on a daily basis, computer science fine-tunes skills which are highly applicable in the classroom. According to the Association of Computing Machinery, “Computing develops capabilities in solving deep, multidimensional problems requiring imagination and sensitivity to a variety of concerns.” Students learn logic and problem solving which are useful even in non-STEM fields like English. Thus, students who learn computer science today will be positioned to maximize the opportunities available to them tomorrow.

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