Going to college is expensive, and the costs only climb when you start shopping top tier universities. Throw in the cost of books, a dorm room, and booze, and it's no wonder college students stock up on Ramen Noodles during the school year. If you're just in it for the knowledge and not the job-enabling degree, you can take free online courses at Stanford.
Being geek may not be cool, but it has become important enough to a national security concern. In particular, the upcoming shortage of American geeks has the Defense Department concerned that a ‘geek-gap’ will emerge that will pose a distinct national security risk for the U.S. Bottom line: pocket protectors are vital for the front lines in a cyber-conflict.
This might seem counter-intuitive, given more and more of us are immersed in technology. But the Pentagon wants real, honest-to-goodness, bona fide geeks, not geek-wannabes. Were talking here people with computer science degrees, who are capable of working the cutting edge and beyond.
According to DARPA, the Defense Departments research cabal, the “ability to compete in the increasingly internationalized stage will be hindered without college graduates with the ability to understand and innovate cutting edge technologies in the decades to come...Finding the right people with increasingly specialized talent is becoming more difficult and will continue to add risk to a wide range of DoD [Department of Defense] systems that include software development.”
The Defense Department is now on the hunt for a ‘few good geeks’ to supplement the machismo of the regular services. DARPA has started programs, targeted a middle and high schools students, to convince them there is a future in being geek.
Brin himself was a high school dropout for a time. He chalks this event up to the use of dated, uninteresting curriculums in his school. In a speech at the Google campus recently, Brin said, “The curriculum should include computer science. Mathematics should include statistics. The curriculums should really adjust.”
Brin held that schools need to take advantage of increasingly inexpensive technology, and more prevalent broadband availability to further education. He also suggests that students could learn more effectively by teaching computer use to younger students and senior citizens. The Google co-founder went on to discuss what he feels is the deplorable state of teacher pay saying, “They're not really paid a living wage.”
Google may be helping schools at little or no charge, but it’s not like they get nothing out of it. By introducing children to Google products early, the brand leaves an indelible mark on their ideas about technology. As a Google spokesperson said, “If they like Google Apps now, they'll ask for it by name. There is a value there."
According to an survey conducted by the Computing Research Association, the number of majors and pre-majors in American computer science programs was up 6.2 percent from 2007. This marks the first time in six years that enrollment in computer science has increased.
"This could be a sign that we are beginning to make headway as well as increased attention, increased interest, and increased investment," said Andrew A. Chien, director of research at Intel.
Since the dot-com implosion starting in 2000, the field has seen a startling decline, leading some to warn about the effect it would have on the nation's ability to compete in the global economy. But in the past few years, there has been much effort to allay potential students' fears that computer science entails little more than sitting cooped up in front of a PC banging out code. That has helped lead to a 9.5 percent increase in the number of new undergraduate majors in computer science, and cut the decline in new bachelor's degrees from 20 percent to 10 percent.
Despite the increase, computer science remains of most interest to men, at least according to enrollment and graduation figures. Women accounted for a consistent 11.8 percent of computer science bachelor degrees in 2008.
As it turns out, the number of male computer scientists far outnumber their female counterparts, putting a wrench into the plans of anyone who signed up for a Computer Science class in order to meet women - go figure! But as unsurprising as that truth may be, Ellen Spertus, an M.I.T. graduate student, was determined to find out why she sats in the minority. Spertus published her results in a 124-page page titled "Why Are There So Few Female Computer Scientists?," which was written back in 1991.
Since that time, the number of women entering the Computer Science field has decreased, despite "women having achieved broad parity with men in almost every other technical pursuit," according to The New York Times. Not only is the number declining, but The New York Times points out that many computer science departments report that less than 10 percent of the undergraduates are women. Contrast that to 25 years ago when the number was much higher, such as the 40 percent female representation at the University of Wisconsin. According to Jonathan Kane, a professor of mathematics and computer science at that same University, women were more prevalent in the computer science field over two decades ago because the male subculture of action gaming didn't yet exist.
Another theory floating around professional circles is that females are less interested in being perceived as a "nerd" or "geek," but no one knows for sure why there as been such a dramatic decline.
Have a theory of your own? Hit the jump and enlighten us.