How many times have you been asked why you’re teaching so much Latin and literature in your school and so little computer science?

One response is to point out that the thinking skills you get from studying an inflected grammar and the interpersonal skills you learn from literature are far more useful. But here’s another perspective from a tech CEO, who says that tech education, even at some of our most prestigious schools, doesn’t make graduates any more attractive to him:computer-programming-1

The thing I don’t look for in a developer is a degree in computer science. University computer science departments are in miserable shape: 10 years behind in a field that changes every 10 minutes. Computer science departments prepare their students for academic or research careers and spurn jobs that actually pay money. They teach students how to design an operating system, but not how to work with a real, live development team.

There isn’t a single course in iPhone or Android development in the computer science departments of Yale or Princeton. Harvard has one, but you can’t make a good developer in one term. So if a college graduate has the coding skills that tech startups need, he most likely learned them on his own, in between problem sets. As one of my developers told me: “The people who were good at the school part of computer science—just weren’t good developers.” My experience in hiring shows exactly that.

This is a shame because the young people who get degrees in computer science or engineering often have the makings of great software developers—the interest is there. But the education is a failure.

Today we insist on higher-education for everything—where a high-school diploma for a teacher or a reporter was once adequate, a specialized degree in education or journalism is now required. But my lead developer didn’t graduate from college, and neither did my other full-stack developer. I do have one developer with a degree in electrical engineering: Did he learn any of his development skills in college, I ask? No.

From “Why I’m Not Looking to Hire Computer Science Majors,” by Daniel Gelernter, CEO of tech startup Dittach in the Wall Street Journal, August 29-30. (There may be a paywall to negotiate)

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