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Computer science is vital, but not for everyone – The Torch

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Showers early with some clearing overnight. Low near 60F. Winds S at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 50%.
Updated: October 24, 2022 @ 9:56 pm

This is a pretty hard opinion for me to come to terms with. I tell everyone I know that they should take at least one course in computer science. I’m an advocate for more computer science classes in high schools and middle schools. I still believe in both statements, but they both come with a caveat to them now. Both of these statements were usually followed by “I wish more people went into computer science.” However, after seeing people come and go, I’ve realized that not everyone should pursue it as a major.
I’ve tutored my peers for a long time, long before I became a teaching assistant for the computer science department. I’ve seen many different types of students and many different ways of approaching problems, and that’s great. One advantage that computer science classes have over, say, mathematics classes is that there are generally multiple ways to solve a problem. While this can also be true in mathematics, usually there’s only one way that the professor or teacher wants you to solve said problem. With computer science, as long as it makes sense and you understand it (and your professor didn’t disallow your specific solution), all solutions that solve the problem are valid. 
There’s a subset of those that I’ve assisted with computer science work that, despite how much effort that they put into their work, don’t seem to click with computer science. And that’s perfectly fine and valid. The open ended nature of solving computer programming problems can be somewhat daunting. Whereas math is very formulaic with its problems and in most cases it is clear how to approach and solve a problem, computer science isn’t quite as straightforward. There are multiple solutions, some of which are better than others, whether that be that they’re faster, more efficient or more understandable.
Another thing that people seem to get stuck on is what to take in when learning their first programming language. On at least more than one occasion, people have asked “How do you remember all of this programming syntax?” Some people have this conception going into computer programming that people who program have all of the syntax and keywords for a given language memorized and that googling something about a language is almost a sign of a lack of knowledge. Neither of these things is even close to the truth. We Google stuff all the time. We have to look up how to do things in a language that we haven’t used in a long time or sometimes at all. We don’t learn or memorize the syntax for every language, we learn how the language works on a conceptual level and apply that knowledge to other languages similar to it, letting us learn that language faster than we did with our first language. For example, if your first language is something like C++, Java is an easy language to pick up because they’re both object oriented languages. But some people are focused on learning the syntax of one specific language, and then when they get to a new language they have to essentially learn it from the ground up.
Everyone should give computer science a try. I’m still going to die on that hill. There’s going to be some frustration when you’re just starting out, that’s just how learning goes for the most part. But if you don’t enjoy finally getting your program to run after dealing with all of the bugs and errors and just see it as another thing done and over with, then it may not be for you. But you can still get a better understanding of problem solving strategies and maybe even a better understanding of how computers work. Don’t force it on yourself if you don’t enjoy it though.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch.
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