Computer Science in Other Disciplines

Many people argue against the teaching of Computer Science by saying that we shouldn’t create a bunch of programmers/computer scientists. I find this argument frustrating because we still teach Math, English, and even Biology even though we know that not all students will pursue these fields. Why do we teach different disciplines? Sometimes, it’s to expose students to career possibilities and sometimes it’s to provide them with skills for any career. CS is about both. It’s important to expose students to the field of CS itself, and let them see the many different forms it can take, but perhaps more importantly, the skills that one learns in CS apply everywhere.

We argue that CS teaches problem solving, logic, and more, and it’s true, and those skills are useful in many contexts. There are always problems to solve, no matter what career you choose, and increasingly, there are programming or technical needs in any career you choose. But don’t take it from me. Take it from one of my former students, Rebecca, now studying Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve:

Even though I am not planning on going in a strictly Computer Science direction (I am currently studying Biomedical Engineering with a Biomaterials concentration), my experience with programming has taught me how to approach problems, and has given me enough background experience to apply to Biomedical Imaging labs- where computers are taught to distinguish cancerous tissue from healthy tissue in MRI images by searching for specific attributes and patterns in the image. Even in the medical field in widespread projects like cancer research, people with programming backgrounds are needed. Some are needed to actually write code, but many more are needed to understand how the data is being created and used so that they know how to implement it in future experiments.

Most of my CS students are not going to be computer scientists, but most of them will pursue careers where their CS experience will help them.  We need to keep reminding people that CS is not just for computer scientists and programmers, but for everyone!

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