Friday, July 08, 2011

What's Your Special Sauce?


How the Internet is Diminishing the Value of Higher Education

James Brewer with some thoughts that should be troubling to educators. Why I'm Not Majoring In Computer Science. This is something that has been on my mind for a few years. I ask educators - "What's your special sauce?" - meaning what do you do that makes coming to your class or taking your program valuable? If I can learn enough HTML from YouTube, why do I need to take a web development course? If the the Internet knows more about AJAX than my instructor, why do I need an instructor?

I consider hacking on cool software projects to be the most awesome thing in the world. With that said, you should know that I'm not a computer science major. In fact, I decided that I want to study applied mathematics during my time at university. Why? Well, to put it simply, I can teach myself computer science easier than I can teach myself math and I think math is absolutely fascinating.

Now, just so nobody gets the wrong idea, I'm not saying that majoring in computer science is a waste of time. On the contrary, I had always planned on majoring in CS, but after realizing that I also love math, I changed my mind. Computer science is a great subject with a lot of really cool applications, but so is math. The difference is that I consider math to be a lot more difficult to teach oneself.  

The Great Thing About Programming

The great thing about programming is that there is an overabundance of material available on the Internet that you can use to teach yourself anything you want to know. Also, programming languages and frameworks come with some of the best documentation that you could ask for. If you want to learn how to program, you can do so without ever leaving your computer screen.

Math, on the other hand, is more difficult to learn (at least in my opinion). Of course you can learn math via the Internet as well, but there just aren't as many resources. This lack of resources makes for quite the learning curve.  


Having a degree in computer science will teach you things that will be useful as a programmer, but simply having the degree won't make you any better or any worse than someone who doesn't.

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