Computing the Costs of CS: students should not be required to take a CS course


Photo by Ashley Lin and Grace Lu. Students are required to take CS before their junior year.

Ashley Lin and Grace Lu

While some students at Jefferson enjoy furiously typing on their computers and discussing about their computer science lab or coding programs, many people don’t realize that there is a looming number of students sitting in the lab, drumming their fingers and wishing that their year of misery would be over.

To complete the Jefferson diploma, students need to complete at least one credit of computer science (CS) by the end of their senior year. The yearlong course is taught at the six computer labs spread out across the trailers. Most start at Foundations CS, although enthusiasts may take a placement test to be placed into Accelerated or Advanced Placement (AP) directly. While some students take the requirement as an incentive to try something new, others dislike it.

By taking the course, students are forced to evaluate whether it fits them or not. The original reluctance may develop into a passion, but for others, CS may just be a dead end. In fact, many students show discontent on the requirement of computer science, especially if they decided to come to Jefferson for advanced learning, not just for its complexity and emphasis in science courses.

Although Jefferson is indeed a magnet school for science and technology, its name does not mean that all students prioritize science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in their studies. Those who unwillingly take CS may see a drop in their grades and subsequently their grade point average (GPA) because of half-heartedness. These drops result in lower confidence and happiness.

The mandatory course also takes up a free elective space, limiting the variety of other courses a student can take. When students want to continue a musical elective, for example, it is hard for them to fit orchestra or band with the CS credit. To be able to earn enough credits to graduate, students must take summer school courses if they want to take an elective during the school year. The requirement provides an obstacle for students with interests that do not include CS.

Instead of requiring an entire year of CS, students could try out the course through a one-month trial and decide whether they would want to continue learning or not. Since CS is not a highly developed course in middle school, many students find the structure and curriculum unfamiliar. A temporary month-long course of CS may allow them to evaluate their aptitude in the course.

CS should not be required, but instead, strongly encouraged for students who want to pursue a career in information technology (IT), or for students who simply want to have that challenge. Science and technology courses should not be forced into students, but be integrated into the school community for deeper and more inquisitive learning experiment.