minutia press.
101 woes, ArtSci schande

Well the semester is in full swing, and I got behind in posting. Here are some thoughts about CS 101 and a policy in Arts and Sciences that is discouraging students from taking our courses, and a lack of action by our administration that is discouraging me.

While I didn't invent 101 (Rich Dammkoehler did), I am one of a few who are fortunate to teach it now and then. With the boom in computers and networks, students from other Schools at our University have started taking 101 -- this trend began about 3 years ago, and it affected (for the better, IMHO) the content and feel of CS 101.

In the past year, ArtSci revistied, revamped, and reinvented their curriculum, primarly the portions that deal with what courses lend balance to the students' experience here. All curricula here involve studies outside the primary area of interest, and almost everybody agrees this is a good thing.

While their original charter called for inclusion and outreach, the form of the ArtSci curriculum that eventually passed completely excluded courses from outside ArtSci from counting toward any ArtSci student's distribution requirements.

So, while CS 101 used to count so that ArtSci students could take it to satisfy distribution requiremens, such is no longer the case.

I thought I had this problem licked: I got CS 101 approved for cross-listing with Linguistics so it also appears as Linguistics 101. This isn't such a stretch, and in fact 101 used to be cross-listed in this way. But ArtSci was too clever for me: it's not enough to get the file listed as an ArtSci course, it has to earn the ArtSci seal of approval. Needless to say, this was not granted.

Meanwhile, to offer their students something computerish that does count, the Econ department offers a course like our CS 100 (something I'll post more about later) and their Math department teaches a course called Intro to Computing that teaches the C language.

Now, everybody in this melodrama is well intentioned. Most ArtSci faculty are suprrised at the form of the final New Curriculum that they voted into being. They didn't read the fine print to see that it excluded courses outside their School. We Computer Scientist faculty have the hubris to think that we can teach computing and computer science courses better than other departments where those subjects are not central.

So why is this happening? It may be financially motivated. ArtSci has to pay us to teach CS 101 to their students, on a per-student basis. It turns out we pay them more to teach our students things, but that's another story. No other explanation has been offered, but if finances drive the way we shape curricula for students, then something is very wrong.

I am discouraged to be in a department that is viewed by an entire School as having nothing worthwhile to offer their students, and to be at a University where an injustice like this goes uncorrected.

On a positive note, the Engineering School has passed a resolution asking ArtSci to once again be more open to the offerings of other Schools. While I am hopeful, this may not have any effect. For a University that finds itself in the middle of the Information Revolution, we are squandering our resources by marginalizing the CS department (and other departments outside of ArtSci) as being too specialized to be of interest to ArtSci students.


Ron worte:

Posted by: Charlie at September 22, 2002 8:01 PM

Charlie, I think you are right: it will eventually take pressure from students and parents to set this thing right.

But if I write the article it doesn't have nearly the impact that it would have if a student from ArtSci were to write it. I'd be glad to help with info of course...

Posted by: rkc at September 22, 2002 8:54 PM