There are two activities which, when taken in combination, have occupied the vast majority of my working hours for the past 20 years: writing computer programs and writing...well, just writing.
During my college years I completed my degree with a double-major: Computer Science and English. (My English degree has a writing concentration; I took the minimum requirement of literature courses to satisfy the major. Please do not ask me to recite Tennyson or interpret Shakespeare.)
Whenever somebody asks me what I do for a living, I do not answer with "I'm a computer programmer", even though that is one of the main activities that justifies my paycheck. For me, "computer programmer" conjures up an image of a sun-deprived subterranean creature -- a go-between who accepts requests from the computer ignorants and performs the necessary incantations over a computer keyboard to make it happen. In "the old days" it really was that mystical. The programmer was like a priest who took your petition to the Great Mainframe. After a ritual sacrifice of punch cards and green bar paper, your prayers might be answered with a result that you could use.
I'd rather be seen as a team member who just happens to specialize in software. It's a lot like the film Oceans Eleven, where a team of specialists all work together to achieve a noble goal. (Their team also has a software specialist, albeit one with some ridiculous skills.)
Many of today's software professionals can credit some sort of computer science education (whether formal or informal) for their success. According to the CSEdWeek.org website, computer science education is essential for:
- Exposing students to critical thinking and problem solving
- Instilling understanding of computational thinking for success in the digital age
- Preparing students to attack the world’s most challenging problems from a computation perspective
Formal education isn't the only way to get there, but I believe that computing-related topics deserve a prominent place in our schools. The CSEdWeek initiative seeks to raise awareness about the importance of computer science education, especially at the K-12 grade levels.
Now that's a computer program that I can get behind.