A few months ago, one of my former students, Saul C., added me on facebook. He is now at a University here in Texas and after a few exchanges back and forth…more or less, him learning about my current work versus my former math teacher life, he told me that he was majoring in computer science. Our reconnection happened at a time when he was applying for a scholarship for future hispanic engineers. He didn’t even need to ask. Of course, I wrote it.
Just to provide a little background, Saul was in my geometry class. He sat quietly to himself most days as an observer and deep thinking problem solver. He was, and I am sure still is, one of those young men who had great reasons to question so many of our daily norms…replacing them with much more fluid ways of working. I can literally close my eyes and see his “thinking” face now, which usually led to some conversation full of “whys?” That’s who he was….and still is…I’m sure.
In our school, we did not have a real computer science program. I know this because a couple of our Upward Bound Math/Science kids were in our interpretation of those courses and let’s just say that the Saturday road trips to UT Arlington for class were quite humorous.
Saul’s high school choices, outside of core learning, were literally band, choir, auto mechanics, woodshop, cosmetology, art, FFA and sports.
When Saul got to college, at some point, he found computer science and fell in love with it.
There is a great deal of chatter happening around CS right now. How will we teach it? Who teaches it? Who trains them? Who pays for that training?
I went to Saul for his opinion. Below is our exchange…shared with his permission. I’m going to say that if you read this and do not understand why EVERY kid deserves this opportunity…and what it means, I can’t help you beyond this.
Why did you choose CS?
Saul: I feel the future holds many opportunities for CS majors. I can apply my skills to help any industry with their problems. I just need a basic understanding of the problem and I can make a program to help them. The things I can make are also limitless. (sidebar: I’ve never heard these words from him…ever. I feel empowered right now)
If your High school offered an extensive CS program, would you have taken advantage of the opportunity?
Saul: I would have tried a couple of programing classes if my school offered them. I possibly could have started on my future a lot earlier.
Do you think having that experience would have helped you now?
Saul: You best believe they would have helped me a lot when I first started programming in college! It was the first time I ever saw a computer language. Furthermore, I struggle a lot in that class because I didn’t have any basic knowledge of programming. I feel like I’m not on the same level as the other CS majors because they’ve been at it since they were in high school. I keep trying and I seek help when I need it. So I’ll be good or better as them some day.
A couple of things…
While there is a massive push for accessible computer science for kids, I agree with Pernille Ripp, in a sense that not every kid wants to code and that kids need access to a plethora of creative pathways. At the same token, we haven’t even considered computer science as a necessary discussion…until now.
And…That’s just not okay
I look at Saul, who found his way into a program at his university and wonder how many kids could have a real interest but have zero awareness? How many kids could be empowered to develop future technologies while solving current problems if they were able to explore early?
How many Sauls have we failed along the way by not creating this pathway…no different than learning math, science, history or reading.
Of course, the same can be said for the arts. Believe me, I am definitely an Arts Ed advocate and perhaps we should consider the new language of ESSA in this case and think of our students as whole people. What are they missing because we haven’t yet gotten the vision to provide it?
Dear Saul, I hope that you get that scholarship and I hope that you never give up on your dreams…even and especially when they are hard. I’m even prouder that you found what you were looking for…finally.