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The US Economy Needs More "Cool" Nerds

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the we-be-cool dept.

Education 453

Hugh Pickens writes "Steve Lohr writes in the NY Times that the country needs more 'cool' nerds — professionals with hybrid careers that combine computing with other fields like medicine, art, or journalism. Not enough young people are embracing computing, often because they are leery of being branded nerds. Educators and technologists say that two things need to change: the image of computing work, and computer science education in high schools. Today, introductory courses in computer science are too often focused merely on teaching students to use software like word processing and spreadsheet programs, says Janice C. Cuny, a program director at the National Science Foundation adding that the Advanced Placement curriculum concentrates too narrowly on programming. 'We're not showing and teaching kids the magic of computing,' Cuny says. The NSF is working to change this by developing a new introductory high school course in computer science and seeking to overhaul Advanced Placement courses as well. The NSF hopes to train 10,000 high school teachers in the modernized courses by 2015. Knowledge of computer science and computer programming is becoming a necessary skill for many professions, not only science and technology but also increasingly for marketing, advertising, journalism and the creative arts. 'We need to gain an understanding in the population that education in computer science is both extraordinarily important and extraordinarily interesting,' says Alfred Spector, vice president for research and special initiatives at Google. 'The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality.'"

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The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527112)

Rather, the burden of change should be placed on the populace (parents especially) and media.

I'm going to make some statements with absolutely no sort of proof, weight or even statistics behind them. Statements which need no proof because if you've gone through the American educational system, you know that what I am saying is the truth.

Football (really sports in general) is more important to teenagers and parents than computer science.

Computer science is far more practical/pragmatic (and really productive for society as a whole) and monetarily rewarding later in life than football.

This isn't pressure from the kids. Kids don't develop these hierarchies of what's more important than other things on their own. They get this from their peers who in turn get it from their parents, teachers and--most importantly--the media. Football is the entertainment industry. There are a small percentage of high school football players that go on to hold all the wealth. All the wealth is controlled or pushed through a single league--the NFL. Kids don't realize that their chances of playing in the NFL are equivalent to winning the lottery. And they pass up much more applicable things like math in order to be better at sports. This is what's wrong with the picture. Don't blame nerds for not being iconic enough or cool enough or social enough.

This has slowly turned as shows and parents have realized that the brilliant nerds they graduated with--the ones that spoke Klingon--actually went on to do really cool things with technology. Not only are they really cool but the whole world is trying to throw cash at them in exchange for their services. Compare that to captain of the football team.

I don't want you to write off sports entirely, a healthy body is necessary to live a long life and moderate exercise is actually good for your intelligence. What I'm asking people to do is when they sit down as a father and spend three hours cheering for their team, they should realize that in order to instill a more pragmatic value in their child (who watches and mimics their every move) they should turn around and spend an equally amount of emphasis on how important math, academics, computer science, etc is to their child.

That's not happening. Our economy is suffering from irresponsible parents breeding a generation of gamblers. And by and large they lose--there's just not enough money in entertainment to go around to every high school football player. There is, however, more than enough money in technology to go around to every high school hobbyist that got out in the real world and applied their knowledge.

I'm not a parent but I'd like to ask all the Slashdotters that are parents that have pushed their children in sports and physical abilities to devote more time to that than reading or studying: why do we do this to our kids? And secondly, do you realize you're creating an ecosystem for other people's kids when your kids reinforce the idea that sports are more important than knowledge and they are the path to success?

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (4, Funny)

reginaldo (1412879) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527296)

American football where I grew up was a right of passage, and pretty much mandatory. It helped teach me self confidence, teamwork, and the ability to bash my head into things. Mostly the head bashing, though.

I use that skill almost every day as a computer programmer, and it is an invaluable part of my toolkit. Poorly written business requirements, bash head. Last minute changes, bash head.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (4, Funny)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527428)

I got the same education by listening to heavy metal.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (4, Insightful)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527572)

And in the UK, we play rugby with similar effect. First thing the US needs to do? Get rid of this fucked up idea that there is any dichotomy between being good at sports and being good academically. Second thing it needs to do is to ditch the idea that because you have an interest or work in a particular field, you have to be some media stereotype of that field.

Then people can do what the fuck they want without society telling them they fall into some particular clique.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527398)

Computer science is far more practical/pragmatic (and really productive for society as a whole) and monetarily rewarding later in life than football.

The mean annual incomes of professionals in the fields of computer science and football might call into question the "monetarily rewarding" part of that statement.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (4, Interesting)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527544)

The mean annual incomes of professionals in the fields of computer science and football might call into question the "monetarily rewarding" part of that statement.

No, they don't, because you're skewing your data. You're looking at the entire comp sci profession and comparing it to those who play football in the NFL--in other words, the general field of one against those who made it to the very top in the other. You need to compare the average per capita income from IT jobs of those who took a computer-related degree against the average per capita income from football of everybody who played varsity football in college. Who wins that contest? Or reverse it--compare NFL players to the likes of Bill Gates, who are the IT field's equivalent of NFL players. Again, who wins that contest?

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527828)

Not at all. He's comparing those paid for the profession services rendered. Just because there aren't anywhere near as many pro footballers as dweeb desk jockeys doesn't change the fact that a professional sports person grossly out earns people cutting code. The reality is just about any person with a reasonable education can get into IT and move from help desk into development over time. Whereas you have almost zero change of making it as a pro athlete. What people do in college is irrelevant. Paid professionals, like for like.
  You are trying to shift the equation. Again, those playing college football are probably doing rather well. Why? They were the top of the athletes, you don't get to be that high unless you have something to drive you.

No one gives a shit about admins and programmers, they're just today's equivalent of a typing-pool. How many people buy posters of developers? How many buy tickets to see them perform? How many people will gather around a TV and cheer them on? you see, just about all IT people are instantly replaceable to society. Torvalds could get run over tomorrow, it probably wouldn't even make a footer in the news.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527852)

No, they don't, because you're skewing your data. You're looking at the entire comp sci profession and comparing it to those who play football in the NFL

I didn't say "in the NFL".

in other words, the general field of one against those who made it to the very top in the other.

Well, no, I was referring to the general field of each profession.

Admittedly, one profession may well be harder to get into at all, and it may well be that investing time and effort into computer skills is a lower risk investment than investing time and effort into football skills.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527586)

Computer science is far more practical/pragmatic (and really productive for society as a whole) and monetarily rewarding later in life than football.

The mean annual incomes of professionals in the fields of computer science and football might call into question the "monetarily rewarding" part of that statement.

Make sure you factor in the 999/1000 students who invested in being good at football instead of academics and didn't make it. These are the guys who serve your food at McDonalds.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (1)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527716)

Computer science is far more practical/pragmatic (and really productive for society as a whole) and monetarily rewarding later in life than football.

The mean annual incomes of professionals in the fields of computer science and football might call into question the "monetarily rewarding" part of that statement.

Logic -- You're doing it wrong.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527850)

I'm not quite sure of the direction you're taking with that statement:

The mean annual incomes of professionals in the fields of computer science and football might call into question the "monetarily rewarding" part of that statement.

The average monetary reward in professional football is probably greater than the average in computer science. However, there are probably more people making a living through computer science, or some computer oriented venture than through football. Also, the incomes of the super successful in computer science can outstrip the super successful in football by a fair margin. I think we just hear more about how much money a football player is making versus an engineer because for the former, it turns into a dick measuring contest and for the latter, building cool things takes that place. I'm sure if someone solved the riemann hypothesis, he or she would be the most impressive member of the scientific community. That being said, I know of a few professors who get multi-million dollar grants which gets spent on research instead of fancy cars.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (2, Interesting)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527404)

It's a problem of values. Americans, actually less so among the young generation now, tend to be anti-intellectual and revere anyone who can entertain them. What we need to do is remove our culture's obsession (including its sexual obsession) with the entertainment industry, which all too often traces back to the entertainment industry just flagrantly masturbating. How many movies exist about musicians, writers, and actors? How many songs are about music and dance? Too many. How many movies or songs deal with technology, science, or engineering other than the ones about "tell NASA to assemble our hottest astronauts" Hollywood Science? Not at all that many.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (5, Insightful)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527736)

People like to watch things they can relate to. I think most people revere real skill in talent in any field, whether that is singing, math, business, or what-have-you. Einstein is as much a household name as Elvis is. However, your average person cannot go pick up Einstein's special theory of relativity and read it. They can, however, play some of Elvis' music and bop their heads to it. It is a lot easier to (poorly) emulate a football player or a singer then to emulate a mathematician.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (1)

gbarules2999 (1440265) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527790)

I know you're just cutting swathes into lesser beings for trolling's sake, but you do have a slight truth in the anti-intellectual angle. However, this comes from the segrigation that schools naturally impose on their students, not from a society imposed choice of moral or value system. Challenge or Honors classes are set aside and rarely "spill" into the rest of the pack for scheduling reasons. I can speak from personal experience and say that this creates an artificial but still very real barrier between those who chose to take a challenge and those who don't. There's certainly friction between the two. It's additionally compounded when you enter lower-level classes (for students who, for example, don't pass the basic skills test mandated by one of the governments).

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527412)

If you buy a scratch off ticket, there is like a 50% that you will get your money back.

Also, there was an episode of Sliders about this. It was just as awful as the rest.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (2, Interesting)

countSudoku() (1047544) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527440)

OMFG, how dare you hit the nail on the head instead of writing a throwaway line to be frist psot! Actually, I am writing to complain because you have just given away some of the points in my own idiom on how to raise my daughter in a world filled with stupid people hell bent on being "football heros|rock stars|famous actors" instead of what makes us more effective, happy people; learning a useful skill and living a normal life. This goes against the Ralph Cramden ethic of anything to get rich quick, but it's the "secret" to what has made my life and career so enjoyable. This is what I want for my little bot, only with more STEM and a degree.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527502)

Its not the media's fault. If the consumer rejects what the media has to offer, then they will throw better table scraps. There's something more fundamental to American values. Anti-intellectualism. The traditions emphasize science for competition rather than discovery. In other words, if science can be fitted into the Football paradigm, we can go to the Moon because its Us vs. The Reds.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (4, Insightful)

awyeah (70462) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527700)

Its not the media's fault.

Damn right. There's a serious lack of personal responsibility in our culture.

Re:The Onus Should Not Be on the Nerds (1)

gbarules2999 (1440265) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527684)

That seems a bit red herring to me. Why isn't there a bigger interest in computers? Football, obviously.

I understand the use of your example, but here's the problem: Football is just entertainment. It's an out of school sport, and the teachers at my old high school (I graduated last year, if anyone was wondering) didn't let the players get any slack; any more for the kids who spent their night watching TV or running around the lake. This was certainly not the norm, but it was a breath of fresh air after middle school.

The reason why a lot of kids at my high school hated technology was that it hated them. Their only interaction with computers was a plethora of broken, buggy, useless Windows XP machines with a haphazard security system and more oddities and crashes than the machines of your nightmares. (Oh, and that was considered the "good" lab - the bad lab had old Mac OS 9 computers that could barely run Word.) Now throw some kids in a basic computers class and watch the frustration stream across their faces. No wonder they thought that those of us who knew how those bastards worked were magical wizards - in a sense, we were.

I actually booted up a LiveCD of Fedora once to keep myself sane. The admin at the time wouldn't let me back on the machines after than (until he retired).

Takes one to know one. (1)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527116)

All I'm going to say about this is that it doesn't really help when the media and others continues to fuel the fire. Why am I labeled an "uber geek" and people who are into their cars, guns, whatever else aren't?

Re:Takes one to know one. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527168)

Because they can actually socialize with people? They also don't pop girls bra straps and run away like you did (and probably still do).

Re:Takes one to know one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527252)

Because they don't bite heads off chickens in the circus?

Re:Takes one to know one. (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527540)

Because your chosen niche hobby isn't widely held as a "social/physical niche hobby", even when it can be. Cars, guns, and sports on the other hand are supposedly more social when they just have more face to face and are more physical hobbies than being at a keyboard is.

Re:Takes one to know one. (1)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527704)

Because your chosen niche hobby isn't widely held as a "social/physical niche hobby", even when it can be. Cars, guns, and sports on the other hand are supposedly more social when they just have more face to face and are more physical hobbies than being at a keyboard is.

Nope, that's not it, because when you get together in groups for stuff like users groups meetings or for a game fest, you're still ridiculed for it. In fact, even more so. For some reason, people just like to pick on computers as a hobby. Most likely because its new.

During the mid to late 90s, tech enthusiasts enjoyed an elevated social status that they had not had before, but I think that has mostly worn off.

Re:Takes one to know one. (1)

awyeah (70462) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527724)

It doesn't help, but parents need to do a better job teaching their kids to make their own decisions and not listen to the media. It's personal responsibility.

The U.S. Economy needs PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION (1, Flamebait)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527124)

Capitalism has no way out! Communism is the only future for humanity! Forge a revolutionary workers party! Long live the Communism of Lenin and Trotsky!!!!

Re:The U.S. Economy needs PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527524)

I look forward to one of you jackasses showing up at my front door.

No.. (0, Troll)

Cheney (1547621) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527188)

The U.S. needs to kill off the idiotic youth that will soon be our main work-force. Out of curiosity, I asked a 20 year old full time student who the former vice president of America was for the past 8 years was.. I get a "?????".

When asked which celebrity recently just passed away.. it was an immediate response full of confidence and knowing. There ya go.

Re:No.. (1)

Drethon (1445051) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527322)

Yes but how much impact did that previous Vice President have on the country beyond shooting someone in the face while Quail hunting?

(partly joking)

Re:No.. (1, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527496)

I asked a 20 year old full time student who the former vice president of America was for the past 8 years was.. I get a "?????".

Since that question is framed in a way which is both extremely awkward and does not have a correct answer, "?????" is an appropriate response. There are usually several former Vice Presidents of the United States of America -- even if you restrict it to living former Vice Presidents, otherwise there have been more than one since the second VP left office and that will always be the case -- at any one point of time, much less in any eight year period. Except when there is only one such person, none is "the" former Vice President at the time.

Re:No.. (2, Insightful)

gbarules2999 (1440265) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527822)

Way to base your assumptions of an entire generation on one person, and then based on a stereotype call for the mudering of them all. If you had said that based on race and not age, you would have been decried a racist or worse.

And here is the counterpoint (2, Interesting)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527190)

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/21/nerd-and-geek-should-be-banned-professor-says/ [nytimes.com]

"David Anderegg, a professor of psychology at Bennington College, says that merely mentioning terms like nerd or geek serves to perpetuate the stereotype. The words are damaging, much like racial epithets, he says, and should be avoided."

Oh really? (5, Insightful)

KermodeBear (738243) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527194)

'The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality.'

Yeah. The reality is that you will be stuck in a small cube writing code instead.

Re:Oh really? (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527394)

you will be stuck in a small cube writing code

You mean the Indian guy will be stuck in a small cube writing code. "You" will be stuck on the street writing code for food (or a ticket to India).

Re:Oh really? (4, Insightful)

Jimmy King (828214) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527470)

What do you mean "stuck in a small cube"? I've got tons of space. My employer has reduced our local development team from 7 people down to just me and now I've got the entire area to myself.

Re:Oh really? (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527500)

I wish I had a cube. I'm in the corner of a common area in a lab, with a community workbench right behind my chair.

Re:Oh really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527566)

and what's wrong with that, exactly? Do you require an entire office all to yourself to work in, to feel good about the work you do? As long as the office environment is nice, the cube is nicely upholstered and you get a good amount of room and privacy, isn't that all that should matter to you? Besides, if you are sufficiently competent, you would probably get your own office one day anyways..

Re:Oh really? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527690)

I wish I could have some room and especially some privacy. Instead, I work in an "open work area", and I'm expected to somehow be able to concentrate here. As for offices, the only people with offices in this company are executives (who thought the "open work area" was a great idea, BTW), and finance people.

Re:Oh really? (1)

Schickeneder (1454639) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527680)

I was lucky enough to have computer science classes taught in my highschool--incidentally that was at a small ghetto public school in Louisiana.

I really enjoyed the class and had an excellent teacher. I wouldn't have minded doing that as a career except I saw what kinds of other people were in the class with me and realized I would not want to work with those types my whole life. I also didn't want to work in a cubicle.

Had there been "cool" nerds in the class things would have been completely different. I never considered myself one of the super-cool kids, but I am fairly certain I was the only one in that class that had a girlfriend.

I also didn't want to end up working in a cube my whole life either--I discovered that while doing an engineering internship. And for the record, engineers are nerdy, but still much less nerdy that programmers. It's not hard to find cool engineers.

Re:Oh really? (1)

ender8282 (1233032) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527718)

Ha I have the best of both worlds... I write code in a basement cubicle.

Oxymoron anyone? cool... nerds (1)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527198)

Look at what this madness did to TechTV. Nerds are nerds. You're never going to make Z80 assembly seems sexy or cool.
I doubt anyone on G4 can heat a burrito properly, let alone program in any computer language.

Re:Oxymoron anyone? cool... nerds (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527594)

I doubt anyone on G4 can heat a burrito properly, let alone program in any computer language.

Well if they get stuck eating a frozen burrito then they might be a kind of cool nerd.

Fear of Being Stereotyped? Really? (2, Interesting)

introspekt.i (1233118) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527212)

Not enough young people are embracing computing, often because they are leery of being branded nerds.

I think a lot of young people just don't find it interesting. I think a lot of older people feel the same way. People tend to do what they're passionate about, and passionate people tend to think less of the opinions of others and more about what they want to do. Do we really need to press this field on more people?

Re:Fear of Being Stereotyped? Really? (2, Insightful)

FLEB (312391) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527682)

Along those same lines, I'd agree with the summary (RTFA? Me? Never!) that early computer education needs to be divorced from only the dull and pointless (MS Office training) and the specialized (programming) to include a wider range of activities that use computers as a tool. Computers have advanced in usability to the point where interacting with "the computer" is overshadowed by interacting with software, websites, and people. Frame computer literacy not in terms of "computer classes", but in terms of art, writing, design, engineering, yes-- programming, and all the creative endeavors that use the computer as a tool.

Re:Fear of Being Stereotyped? Really? (3, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527728)

I think a lot of young people just don't find it interesting. I think a lot of older people feel the same way. People tend to do what they're passionate about, and passionate people tend to think less of the opinions of others and more about what they want to do. Do we really need to press this field on more people?

A lot of young people don't find reading, writing, or basic mathematics -- or general science, civics or economics -- interesting either, and we press those on people as educational requirements. Given that computing is a fairly fundamental tool of modern society in every field, a certain baseline understanding of the basic principles involved may be quite reasonable to expect as a core educational requirement.

Re:Fear of Being Stereotyped? Really? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527754)

This is it exactly. I'm really tired of all this whining about how we need to push more young people into computer-related or engineering fields. If they're not interested in those things, they're not interested. If that means our economy goes down the crapper in 30 years because everyone would rather play sports or be real estate agents or scam artists, then so be it. Let nations where people believe in hard work and doing technical things be the ones to get ahead, instead of trying to push people into things they don't want to do and consequently aren't going to be very good at.

Re:Fear of Being Stereotyped? Really? (1)

awyeah (70462) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527768)

I think parents have the ability to affect what their kids are passionate about.

It's not even about the "field" (1)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527840)

I don't think any chosen field has a lot to do with anything, tech-wise.

As we let more of our daily tasks (and even specialized tasks) be done with computers, people end up learning bits and pieces of software programs, sometimes becoming "experts" with whatever program is used.

As much as people would like to view all computer-related work as just using an appliance, we're jut not there and I don't believe we'll ever be there.

The biotech profession - particularly drug discovery - comes to mind, but there are many other professions that depend on sophisticated programs.

It's Much Worse Than That (0, Redundant)

hardburn (141468) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527218)

'The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality.'"

Instead, you'll be stuck in a cube farm doing TPS reports. Which is much, much worse than a basement. I've done the cube farm thing and they'd have to drag me back.

Re:It's Much Worse Than That (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527816)

I'd love to go back to a cube farm. I'm now condemned to working in a "open work area", and it's beyond horrible. How the fuck am I supposed to be able to concentrate on my work with people coming and going all around me?

A lot of nerds are cool... (1)

Drethon (1445051) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527222)

It just seems like people focus on the nerd doing the job instead of the damn cool results a lot of nerds produce, though maybe its just my perception...

idea (3, Interesting)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527224)

they'll be sitting in mom's basement e-mailing resumes, employers don't want fresh-out-of-school grads. maybe we need a national apprenticeship program to give young people experience in the tech fields.

I think us nerds are doing fine... (1)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527230)

...There already are not enough tech jobs for us. Sure, we had a hard time in high school (at least I know I did), but we get our day eventually. Particularly for me, my day was last week when I saw one of the biggest, douchiest jocks from my high school working at the local car wash.

Re:I think us nerds are doing fine... (-1, Troll)

LOLLinux (1682094) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527306)

And yet he probably has a girlfriend while you wank with your fleshlight.

Re:I think us nerds are doing fine... (1)

Paralizer (792155) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527824)

How sad your world must be if that is what gives you a feeling of accomplishment and self worth.

Furthermore you don't even know the circumstances (or seemed to imply you don't) to which he was working there. What if he's just doing his friend a favor by giving him some help on a busy day? What if he lost a bet and had to work there for a few hours? What if he owns or co-owns the place? If you merely saw him there then you know nothing and to assume you are better than him shows how shallow you really are.

Solution is easy (2, Insightful)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527238)

It's quite simple. Give the technology classes to people who actually understand the subject and can teach interesting aspects of computer science.

All of my computer courses were either run by secretaries "Learn excel!" or mathematicians "Learn esoteric matlab graphing!"

Teach kids something more entertaining for a broader swath of students like visual effects. Write a renderer in a compositing application. or Teach kids Torque Game Builder. Something simple but creates a product the students actually are interested in.

Re:Solution is easy (4, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527560)

It's quite simple. Give the technology classes to people who actually understand the subject and can teach interesting aspects of computer science.

And how, exactly, do you get those people to accept the combination of pay and working conditions given to high school teachers?

Re:Solution is easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527686)

I would have killed for a "learn esoteric matlab graphing" class.

Re:Solution is easy (1)

nkcaump (1016816) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527848)

I've dabbled in the programming language Alice [alice.org] and it's quite neat to see my seven year old manipulate things on the screen. I am just trying to get him exposed to a lot of different things, computers, reading, baseball, swimming, and look at enhancing the things he becomes passionate about - whether that's football or C# programming.
I can add to his base of knowledge by advising him, but ultimately, he'll need to climb the peaks and sustain the valleys.
That being said, I will tell him that if he ever wants to get laid, he should stay away from Linux.

He's absolutely correct (1)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527242)

'The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality.'

Quite right! It's a cubicle.

Re:He's absolutely correct (1)

mcd7756 (628070) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527418)

Actually, I am in a basement writing code in a cube. I had a window office once. I dream of those days even though that company was evil.

Re:He's absolutely correct (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527474)

My sophomore year of college, I realized that I was doomed to be sitting in front of a computer screen doing work. My only choice was what I would be doing. And coding I enjoy.

Cool? You don't know cool. (2, Insightful)

Trigun (685027) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527268)

What about Turing? Tesla? Archimedes? Einstein? Hawking? Those guys from 'Big Bang Theory'?

How much cooler do you want?

Re:Cool? You don't know cool. (1)

Tikkun (992269) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527378)

How much cooler do you want?

I don't think any of the real nerds you mention wore ironic tee shirts or talked about how social media will transform how the world finds the best sushi restaurant in San Francisco.

Re:Cool? You don't know cool. (2, Interesting)

Trigun (685027) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527432)

Only due to era.

How else can you change the world as a teenager? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527298)

Open source projects, such as Fedora, provide a way for teenagers to make contributions (and not just with code) that help millions of people. That aren't a lot of other ways to do that. For example Ian Weller is a very significant participant (https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/User:Ianweller) in the Fedora Project and is still in high school.

Not a hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527300)

As long as we keep spending money on kids who are good at sports, instead of those with discernable intellects, the country is fucked. We need to make it *uncool* for jocks to exist, then we have a hope of turning this shit round.

Re:Not a hope (1)

LOLLinux (1682094) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527396)

Yeah because it's totally impossible for someone to be both athletic and intelligent. *rolls eyes*

Ob. Simpsons (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527312)

My mom says I'm cool.

We have enough. (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527346)

We have enough raw labor resources in this country to meet any technology demand. Don't blame the culture or this lame-ass idea that people are afraid of being labelled nerds. If I made six figures, they could call me the pink tutu goddess of networking and I wouldn't mind.

The problem is that businesses don't want to pay highly-trained and specialized workers more. They've tried outsourcing, right-sizing, downsizing, globalization, and every other way possible to screw people out of wages. And curiously enough, we keep coming back to the same problem -- no matter how big you make the labor pool, the required training and experience required to do these jobs demands a certain minimum income. Keynesian economics, I'm looking at you -- your adherents continue to believe that if they keep expanding the labor pool they'll reach a price point they want. Well, good luck with that...

Re:We have enough. (1)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527568)

The problem is that businesses don't want to pay highly-trained and specialized workers more.

In my experience, even during this recent recession, payscales for software developers in Silicon Valley continue to well outpace inflation. Where are you working where business do not pay more?

Secretaries (2, Insightful)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527366)

It wasn't *that* long ago that executives didn't type their own memos and letters. Ask one to use a typewriter or a word processor and they would have laughed or wouldn't know how to do it.

More and more computing skills are becoming basic skills. Maybe only the dinosaurs continue to use word processors and spreadsheets, but people still want wikis and PDFs. And by dinosaurs I don't mean the old schoolers, but those who still cling to the idea that in this age, the best way to disseminate knowledge is to print it on an 8" x 11", un-editable, fixed document stuck in a binder...

And that's part of the problem. In my day to day work I don't need a word processor or a spreadsheet except when a manager specifically asks for documentation in that format. So I gather my data and run it through a utility to convert it to a pretty Excel sheet, or convert it to a nicely formatted PDF, or make it into a web page. We're teaching kids to use tools that don't work all that well for the media-rich environment we have today.

Teach them to write a Facebook app or use a content creation tool.. That will be more useful than learning how to print mail merged letters.

Media Branding (4, Insightful)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527368)

How about this, stop calling people who use computers to get things done as "nerds" ("geeks", "techies", etc).

Look at any magazine or television commercial, you think all that crap was hand carved out of stone and painted with the tears of virgins? I guarantee a computer was used at some point or another in the creative development behind it. Hell, music has been constantly fusing with new technology for ages, was Les Paul a "nerd"?

Technology, computers especially, penetrated society long ago, the only thing that creates this "us & them" rift is constant stereotype re-enforcement through the media.

Now, if you'll excuse me I have to go re-alphabetize my D&D collection while being bad at sports, good day to you sir!

Re:Media Branding (4, Interesting)

thisnamestoolong (1584383) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527836)

We could stop using the word 'nerd', but I prefer to do what I can to make the word a badge of honor. That, to me, is a much easier fight.

Affairs (5, Funny)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527444)

Clearly, Bill Gates, and some of the other titans of the industry need to bite the bullet and have some very public, scandalous affairs so that the media will start talking about how immoral and terrible people software designers are. Then suddenly sportsmen will become model citizens and no one will want to go into sports anymore.

Re:Affairs (1)

PPalmgren (1009823) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527634)

That was pure gold sir. Mod parent up (out of mod points).

Help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527446)

Help I'm in my basement writing code.

Of course not. (1)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527448)

'The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality.'"

No. You'll be sitting in a cube, reading and posting to slashdot.

That's me! (4, Insightful)

Jorgandar (450573) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527468)

Happy to see somewhere out there someone believes in the cool nerds. (i'm also the gay one, and at work that means i'm triple times fabulous ;). I no longer work in IT but i work in regulatory compliance. Where do i find still my undergrad degree in computing sciences useful? EVERYWHERE and EVERY DAY!!! I believe the biggest mistake of this century is for businesses to isolate their "tech" employees to an IT department. This structure ensures that all computing knowledge is isolated from the rest of the business that could use it to increase productivity! I've written countless scripts, reports and other programs to perform simple otherwise labrous tasks and free business workers to focus on important things. People think i'm some sort of miracle worker. The reality is that i'm simply an anomaly at the firm - a person with a computing background who works in the business side. There needs to be more of us - many more!! When i'm CEO - there will be people with computer science backgrounds positioned everywhere in the company. They are the key to connecting the business with technology needs and making business far more efficient. An "IT" department, no matter how good, isn't as good as mixing knowledge of technology in the business side directly.

Not enough? (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527504)

There aren't enough nerds? You mean that you don't want to pay what nerds charge for what they do.

There's plenty of us out there... Enough that many are unemployed. Businesses just want more nerds on the field so they can pick better ones and pay them less.

By that same token, I declare that there are too many: CEOs, mechanics, doctors, etc etc.

Do It All (0, Redundant)

Isbjorn (755227) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527506)

My kids are great at sports--AND they love to read. My oldest two have skipped a grade in school, they score off the charts on any standardized test. They are well liked and social leaders in their age group. They have their own computers (running two different flavors of Linux), but they'd just as soon go jump on a trampoline, go for a bike ride, go hiking, or kick butt in soccer. You want the real secret? Be a parent, enjoy these little people...we all know you enjoyed creating them ;-) Anyway, treat them with dignity and respect, spend time with them, and wow, you'd be amazed how successful they can be at anything!

I've seen things swinging the other direction. (4, Insightful)

NoPantsJim (1149003) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527508)

Every time I go out somewhere, I can overhear idiots bashfully proclaiming to be "total nerds" to impress girls, despite not being able to string a sentence together or use a word with more than two syllables.

Don't get me wrong, the whole nerd chic thing has been great to me, but guys who used to beat up guys like me calling themselves nerds just to get laid is a bit annoying.

Re:I've seen things swinging the other direction. (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527672)

There are also people who don't have socials skills or enough technical knowledge to figure out why the image on their new widescreen LCD is stretched blurry, who call themselves "nerds" and give those of us with some redeeming intelligence a bad name.

Re:I've seen things swinging the other direction. (1)

NoPantsJim (1149003) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527746)

Thank you, I think we're talking about the exact same type of person. It's like people are diluting the term "nerd".

A great idea, and challenging.. (1)

SixDimensionalArray (604334) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527550)

As someone who has tried to do exactly what this article suggests, I feel obligated to chime in and say that I think it's absolutely correct. People with the ability to apply technology skills to business or societal needs of a particular discipline are extremely valuable.

For example, in my case, I combined healthcare knowledge, social science and information systems and now work in a very interesting and challenging segment of the healthcare industry.

I would point out that it is very challenging and can be difficult to focus one's study when you are trying to learn something technically oriented, like writing software in C++, and combine it with something else very different, like building construction, for example. Some things simply take skill and raw ability, or a long time to learn. There might be a lot of similarities in building software and building a building, but being an expert in both takes a while. Still though, a person who can apply knowledge of software development (or even build or implement software) that makes the process of building a building more efficient is a good person to have around.

Perhaps, in other words, all this is saying is, having people who are cross-disciplinary and can apply their skills in more than one scenario is a good thing. That's not much of a stretch of the imagination, in my opinion. More skills are better than less, and people who can mix and match are helpful.

We must, however, also be leery of the "jack of all trades, master of none" issue.

What jobs??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527554)

Oh yeah, get a good education for what?
No jobs for US Citizens.
If you can get one, get ready for minimum wages and 80 hours a week with unpaid overtime.
No thanks!!!

Loans... again? I would love to but... (2, Insightful)

HerculesMO (693085) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527626)

At the moment in a purely IT role (some management, some hands on, etc), I make about the same amount as an average doctor and work less hours. Granted I'm sure that some specialists make a lot more, but the simple fact is that there isn't a motivation to move.

To be honest, I have considered pursuing a medical degree -- not for the money, but for my own interest. Looking at the amount of time I have to invest, looking at the amounts of loans I have to take out, looking at the long term gain -- it's not worth it.

The way government controls behavior is through taxation. If they want people to drive hybrids, they can tax gasoline. That's why europeans drive smaller cars -- because gas costs more due to taxes. If they want people to stop drinking, or stop eating McDonalds or whatever -- they can tax accordingly. But unfortunately in the last few years of our economy, it's become abundantly clear that people with a finance degree and the ability to reap rewards on a short term (bonuses) while screwing other people out of the long term is what is valued in our country. Do we value educators? Do we value doctors? Not really -- many articles surrounding healthcare debate lie in the idea that "doctors make too much", when given the lifestyle and hours they work, they should honestly be paid more.

Making a person like me jump from IT into healthcare or be crosstrained in order to better the country as a whole to me, is a great idea. I just can't burden the expense -- again. I have gone through the system that is there, and wound up many thousands in debt due to school loans. If we want more 'cool nerds', then somebody has to start putting the emphasis back on aspiring to be a doctor, a teacher, a scientist (the kind with beakers, not computers), etc. Not having kids aspire to be the next Michael Jordan or Jay Z.

Unfortunately it's a myth that is perpetuated and we keep buying into it. Sadly, other countries see our folly and already accelerate ahead of us (the US) in many, many areas. We are the best at a lot of things, but for how long? Hopefully our behaviors can change so that a person like myself that actually wants to contribute in a meaningful way, can.

wrong focus yet again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527628)

The problem is not as much a lack of skills (set) amongst the techies, but a lack of seemingly any skills whatsoever amongst the "leadership".
The nerds and geeks are not the weak links in the chain.

Like High School Teachers Are Cool (1)

mattwrock (1630159) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527648)

Yeah , the High School teacher. The ultimate combination of an NFL all-star and American Idol contestant! They can barely teach the subject that went to school to teach others. The problem is that there are too many barriers for "outsiders" to have an after school club or part-time teaching. I am certain that User Groups, semi-retired technologists and others can really make a difference. Besides, the kids who do know, don't want to be found out. Not because they are nerds, but because they 1337 Haxxors!

another appearence of the Sci-tech shortage myth (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527654)

Various advocacy groups have been proclaiming severe shortages of scientists and engineers since Sputnik fifty years ago. The loudest voices are computer companies who ask to hire more people from abroad under restrictive H-1B visas. And the National Science Foundation which has a vested interest in ever-increasing numbers of sci-tech students.

On the opposing side are professional societies which worry about unemployment among older sci-tech workers. People are suspicious employers are interested in cheaper and more controllable labor using the visa program.

Personally I think there is not much of an imbalance between supply and demand. We have cycles where exciting new technologies like PCs, computers and smart phones attract new students. Not to mention get-rich-quick booms like dot.com. Then these are followed for business corrections that flush out the economic mercenaries and leave the dedicated.

I do think there is a shortage of general computer and scientific literacy in broad society. And this needs to be improved.

Siverek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30527658)

The problem is that businesses don't want to pay highly-trained and specialized workers more.

In my experience, even during this recent recession, payscales for software

http://www.sivereknet.com

Hmmm, computer science and arts? (1)

burtosis (1124179) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527664)

How about more hype over nerdcore music?

http://www.mcplusplus.com/ [mcplusplus.com]

That oughtta get some more recruits into the war on ignorance! One day I hope to be as cool as Monzy...

I for one.. (1)

buruonbrails (1247370) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527668)

..welcome our new nerdy overlords. Like it or not, either the nerds or the machines will rule the world in the nearest future.

You don't know what you're talking about. (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527702)

Not enough young people are embracing computing, often because they are leery of being branded nerds.

Really? REALLY? You think so? It couldn't be due to the fact that not everyone likes computers, that some would much rather be hanging out at a mall shopping, or seeing the latest movies, or running around in a field doing some sport or another. If you have a computer in the house, and you let your child browse the internet (with some filtering) - they can learn to surf the web by the time they enter grade school. (I know I did). This is a headstart to computer sciences. At first they'll learn about programs. They'll want one program or another after reading about it. But you can't help them install it, then they'll have to learn how to install a program. Or alternatively, they'll have to login to some webservice. They'll learn about usernames and passwords! Then once they've got that under their belt they will be ahead of the curve in computers.

The Guys and Gals that were labelled as Geeks were into computers long before they were labelled as geeks. I don't know of a single person who said "Yeah, I really like computers, but I stopped using it for fear of being a social outcast". You stayed up late to set a high score. You rushed home from school to pickup where you left off. Eventually the games themselves got boring and repetitive, but for whatever reason you LOVED your computer. So you start fiddling around with command prompt. Or you surf the web. One day you get curious as to what exactly DirectX does, so you look it up. If you spent too long on it however, Mom and Dad would tell you to shut it off.

And that is a perfect Segway into my next point - is that it's discouraged behavior. I was learning Visual basic when my Mom told me to stop playing my games and go do something productive. I wish I could have videotaped that part of my life and shown it to her now, shown her how much more productive learning that stuff on my own free will was than Re-Re-studying for a test I knew I could ace. I'm not a parent so I have no weight to these arguements whatsoever, but I think Parenting should be a little more flexible in that regard. Yeah, punish your kids when they do bad, but at least -LET- them make those mistakes. Show them multiple facets of the world, from sports, to arts, to science, and everything in between. Once they have the knowledge, they can choose what they find most entertaining, and persue that. And whatever they learn while persuing their passion will ultimately be a million times more valuable to them than anything you could teach them.

I'm not a father, though one day I might be. The one thing I look forward to is the day when my Child knows more about a subject than I do. Obviously, those lessons are something I can't teach them.

I'd rather not have.... (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527710)

Medical doctors writing the code to run highly sophisticated and/or potentially dangerous medical equipment....

Pilots writing fly-by-wire or ATC systems....

MBAs writing ERP systems...

Etc.

Too right. (1)

lattyware (934246) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527760)

In the UK, I was told not to bother with computing related courses, instead doing Maths and Further Maths. ICT is a course on being a receptionist. Nothing more.

Computer Science is just a problem-solving tool (3, Insightful)

jmac880n (659699) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527774)

... just like Mathematics.

It means nothing by itself, except as a means to an end of solving practical problems.

That said, it makes all the sense in the world for most Computer Scientists to learn other domains of knowledge to apply to.

The more disciplines you are familiar with, the more adept you will be at applying your programming skills to solving real-world problems.

Always will have nerds (1)

K.B.Zod (642226) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527804)

Eventually, on its own, computing may move out of the "nerd" area of interest and into the mainstream. It's already starting with smartphones, music players, and ever more intricate gaming consoles. Once that happens, computing will be cool, and some other area of interest will become nerdy. Or, computing will stay "nerdy", and maybe something else will become cool, like tabletop gaming or massive LEGO collections or comic books. (Sorry guys ...)

Society will always need to label some as nerds, for whatever demented sociological reason there is for it.

ProgramS? (1)

DrugCheese (266151) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527830)

Today, introductory courses in computer science are too often focused merely on teaching students to use software like word processing and spreadsheet programs

Singular, not plural.

Today, introductory courses in computer science are too often focused merely on teaching students to use Microsoft Word processing and Microsoft Excel spreadsheet program.

I went to a crappy private catholic high school 16 years ago but, luckily, our first course was in GW Basic. My girl just took a Computer Science class at the local community college and all she went through was Word, Excel, Access. It made me kind of mad, cause all she really learned was where to find all the menus in the new version of office.

Yeah, right (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#30527838)

The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality. How true! The vast majority are instead stuck in a cubicle, writing code. Basements are passé!
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