The Weirdness of University Computer Science

I am looking over some syllabi of introduction to programming courses for ideas, and something that is stunning is that typically, 60% or 70% of a student's grade is based on written tests, while only 20% or 30% is based on... programming!

It's like "teaching" someone to swim by making sure they can answer questions about swimming.


  1. In fairness ... whenever it's revealed that supposed CS grads can't pass the Fizzbuzz test, someone points out that "Computer Science Isn't Programming", and is supposed to be about the theoretical understanding of computation. (Example).

    The course you mention is supposed to be about programming, of course, but being in a CS program, the same point applies.

    1. Silas, I am quite sympathetic to arguments suggesting it is different to study X and to study the theory of X. Computer science is a fine discipline, and people studying it at Yale or MIT, prepping for careers as computer scientists, does not bother me in the least. But at less elite colleges, where there is very little chance the graduates will become CS professors, and where they are very explicitly pitching their degrees to those who want to get programming jobs... well, then, I think, they should teach programming!

  2. Anonymous6:45 PM

    Ken MKesey's son was a college wrestler at the university of oregon. He was traveling to a tournament in a university van when the stdent driver lost control on the snowy road. The van tumbed down a ravine, and Jed Kesey was fatally injured.

    Subsequently, all student drivers of university vehicles at u of o must take a one hour safety course and pass a practical test. The test consists of backing a van into a perpendicular parking space with the aid of a spotter. I'm sure countless insurance dollars have been saved.


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