Computer Science, inherently, is an esoteric science, often viewed upon with skepticism by the so-called ‘true’ scientists. One enters college viewing Computer Science as nothing but one big esoteric code fest, but that is far from the case. I myself prefer to think of Computer Science as nothing more than applied mathematics. Indeed, computers are dumber than Ed, Edd and Eddy, and must be told each and every thing if it is to do what we want it to. The true beauty of Computer Science arises when people figure out smarter and time-saving ways to make computer accomplish the same task. Alas, this is not a concept completely grasped by many, and many approach the subject with a prejudice against computers, citing reasons such as “I haven’t even managed to install Windows yet!” which makes as much sense as pushing needles through one’s eyelids. However, I would gladly do the latter if it would give me an excuse to get away from the 8 hours of lab I have to oversee every Friday.
The freshmen in question are an assorted bunch. There are those who have been coding since class 6, those who figure out the computer within minutes, and those whose expertise is limited only to Facebooking. In the first-ever lab session, I saw people do all the exercises and complete the entire manual in 2 hours flat and then happily exiting the lab. This would normally mean a lesser workload, if it was not for the inferiority complex suffered by many who eyed these happy-go-lucky coders with daggers. Impeded more by under-confidence than anything else, the students’ performance deteriorates. I have observed more than one person touching the keys one-by-one so slowly as if afraid the computer might explode. This is often compounded by many who are done early staying back to ‘help’ their peers, not realizing that such help only strengthens the you-have-it-or-you-dont notion many of the poor freshmen have. This becomes bad to the extent that students panic, and as a result forget even basic math they have been learning since Grade 6. And because Computer Science is nothing but applied Grade 6 math, the learning curve steepens even more.
What these people don’t realize is the fact that the objective of an introductory course is not to make them tech-savvy geeks. Rather, the goal is to teach them to think logically and creatively. A computer is merely a tool, which we use to achieve many of the technological wonders around us today, and Computer Science is merely a thorough study of this extremely complex tool.
With rags-to-riches stories going up into hundreds, Computer Science and Software Engineering is certainly a field to be pursued diligently. However, even in sciences like Biology, Physics and Chemistry, a basic knowledge of computers and how they work is required, because computers are employed in every lab not set up in a cave. Basic data acquisition, its processing, organization and metasystems management are all skills valuable to any scientist, and I certainly hope to guide my dear freshmen through this course and making sure no one is left behind.