The real problem is that these schools are not doing anything positive to attract the kids who are really interesting in programming, not computer science. I think the solution would be to create a programming-intensive BFA in Software Development–a Julliard for programmers. Such a program would consist of a practical studio requirement developing significant works of software on teams with very experienced teachers, with a sprinkling of liberal arts classes for balance. It would be a huge magnet to the talented high school kids who love programming, but can’t get excited about proving theorums.
The funny thing is that I attended a study program similar to the ones Joel describes. When it was time for me to decide what I wanted to do after I finished school and the compulsory army service all I knew was that I wanted to get away from Uppsala. After living 18 years in one place I felt I needed some change.
I was also quite good with everything computer related, so being lazy I figured it would make sense to study something related to that. I browsed through some catalogs, surfed the web and found a Software Engineering program down in Ronneby at the then called Högskolan i Karlskrona-Ronneby.
The thing that made me feel extra strong for this study program was the yearly projects. Real life projects done for real customers.
This took place during the spring semester each year. The first year it was a small five study credits course you did all by yourself. From the initial nervous meetings with the customer through the requirements gathering, implementation, testing and finally delivery of the product.
I’m still proud of the flight tracking software I wrote in VisualC++ for an older then-working student who had just got a soaring certificate. The first and last windows coding I have ever done!
The second year the project course was twice as long which means half time during the whole spring semester. This time we were a group of four (or maybe five, I can’t remember) and we did a WML WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor for creating WAP pages for mobile phones. This time the customer wasn’t a single person but a bigger company. Mind you, this was in the early days of the mobile revolution when mobile data traffic hardly existed.
The last year the project course would have been the whole spring semester. I, however, had met a girl from Finland during the spring and quit before the third year started leaving the country to begin my working life abroad.
It seems like I was lucky to find a study program similar to what Joel describes in his article. We didn’t have any liberal arts classes but we did have the minimum required amount of math. Not that I was bad at math in school but I find theoretical math boring. I don’t think I would have minded some liberal art though, so there is still room for improvement.