Battle of the Nerds: AP Calculus Versus AP Pc Science

A Geek Hole?

As soon as once more America is at risk from a looming under-supply of nerds. The newest figures from the School Board present that not a single woman took the college-level AP (Superior Placement) Pc Science coding take a look at in two states and no black college students took the take a look at in eleven states, together with Mississippi, which has the largest black inhabitants within the nation. Even worse solely 31,000 college students in the US took the AP Pc Science take a look at in 2013. “America’s Coming Geek Hole” shrieks the left-liberal Mom Jones. America, or not less than Google, is at risk of collapsing with out hundreds of thousands of highschool college students taking the AP Pc Science Examination.

It’s fairly clear. America’s highschool college students — female and male, black and white — aren’t excited by formal pc science lessons. Certainly, the extra superior AP Pc Science AB examination was discontinued after the Might 2009 examination resulting from lack of curiosity, a tiny variety of take a look at takers.

Let’s face the unappealing factoids for the fortieth or fiftieth time since Sputnik! American college students are wimpy mental light-weights who couldn’t code a “Good day World” program if their lives trusted it and wouldn’t wish to even when they might. Sure, and the American STEM (Science, Expertise, Engineering, and Arithmetic) instructional system discriminates horribly in opposition to ladies and non-white college students missing ancestors from India (as in Gandhi) or Asia. Move the hanky and watch the most recent video to really feel somewhat higher.

However wait! Don’t rely America’s younger nerds out simply but. In 2013, School Board statistics present {that a} whopping 147,704 younger males and 135,410 younger ladies took the AP Calculus AB Examination and 62,164 younger males and 42,319 younger ladies took the extra superior AP Calculus BC Examination in the US, a complete of just about 400,000 college students taking an AP Calculus Examination. The variety of college students taking the AP Calculus Exams is surpassed solely by the 476,277 college students taking the AP English Language and Composition Examination and the 385,576 college students taking the AP English Literature and Composition Examination.

Let’s put aside these eight-hundred thousand vivid younger individuals who have an odd need to speak nicely within the language written and spoken by virtually all US residents. Wimpy humanities majors hoping for careers deconstructing the hidden patriarchal messages in Jane Austen novels — every body! That’s actually not a subject for the Math Weblog.

What do the AP Calculus versus AP Pc Science Examination numbers actually inform us?

America’s younger nerds in coaching, each younger males and younger ladies in giant numbers, are rolling up their sleeves and taking the more durable lessons. They’re studying the calculus of Newton and Einstein, Nicola Tesla and Enrico Fermi, Werner von Braun and Robert Goddard, none of this “Good day World” stuff. They’re studying the calculus and different superior mathematical expertise wanted for physics and hard-core engineering. As “Peak Oil” and international warming loom (nicely, perhaps) they’re studying the troublesome expertise that can in all probability be wanted to unravel these and different Massive Issues.

Sure, Virginia, calculus and superior arithmetic are more durable than Java programming (AP Pc Science is Java-based). If we wish low-cost, moderately clear vitality for seven billion (and rising) folks, Java and object-oriented programming isn’t going to chop it. We want table-top fusion reactors, versatile, paper-thin simply manufactured photo voltaic cells, and different technological marvels — not a lot Java there. If we wish to treatment most cancers, an in depth mastery of the Git model management system isn’t going to get the job executed. If we wish meals for that seven billion and rising inhabitants, AP Biology (203,189 US college students took the AP Biology Examination in 2013) is perhaps a greater funding than AP Pc Science.

Mom Jones “America’s Coming Geek Hole” cites an alleged 1.4 million projected software program engineering jobs to be created between 2012 and 2022 (10 years). Relatively curiously, the article hyperlinks to a BLS research that appears to report a complete employment of “software program builders, utility” of 613,000 in 2012, projected to develop to 752,900 in 2022, a rise of lower than 200,000 jobs in ten years. The 1.4 million projection seems to be based mostly on combining the “software program builders, utility” class with a number of different computer-related classes not listed on the BLS internet web page referenced by the Mom Jones article.

Nonetheless, for the sake of argument, allow us to settle for the 1.4 million projection, which has similarities to the quantity given in’s video. In 2013, about 382,000 highschool college students took the AP Calculus AB or BC Examination. In ten years we will count on not less than 3.8 million college students to take the AP Calculus exams, a a lot bigger quantity than 1.4 million.

Many seminal figures in pc science such because the late Dennis Ritchie, inventor of the C programming language and a key contributor to the unique Unix working system, and Grace Hopper, inventor of COBOL, had or have levels in arithmetic. Certainly, many programmers to at the present time would not have formal CS levels, with levels in all the things from English Literature to Physics. Such excessive profile figures as Invoice Gates, the late Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg lack CS levels or, actually, non-honorary levels of any sort.

The left-liberal Financial Coverage Institute, which is carefully affiliated with the AFL-CIO, has claimed that solely forty-three p.c of employees in pc associated jobs have a CS diploma based mostly on “unpublished tabulations of the 2003 Nationwide Survey of School Graduates supplied to EPI by Dr. Nirmala Kannankutty, senior advisor, Nationwide Heart for Science and Engineering Statistics on the Nationwide Science Basis”. A GAO report in 1998, citing a Commerce Division report, claimed: “In keeping with
the Nationwide Science Basis, solely about 25 p.c of these employed
in pc and data science jobs in 1993 truly had levels in
pc and data science.”

There appears little doubt from a long time of expertise in software program that vivid college students capable of take the AP Calculus Exams can fill the nation’s wants for software program engineers even when they don’t select to pursue a proper CS diploma. Certainly, STEM fields comparable to physics or arithmetic will probably present a stronger coaching for the extremely mathematical software program growth that’s more likely to develop in significance within the coming a long time. We are able to already see this taking place with the present “data-science” software program jobs which are sometimes crammed by non-CS diploma holders.

That is the paradox. America’s public coverage and public faculties produce giant numbers of younger nerds well-trained to deal with the Massive Issues. Our younger folks, each women and men, are taking the powerful matters as by no means earlier than in both US or world historical past. There isn’t any “geek hole” now neither is one probably sooner or later. Nonetheless we’re inundated with information experiences about “geek gaps” and different factually unsupported assertions.

Right here is the actual downside. Go to any job board — LinkedIn, Craig’s Record, Monster — and seek for jobs requiring calculus. You’ll discover a literal handful on a world scale, largely in quantitative finance. Seek for jobs to develop new vitality sources and you will discover a number of extra, however nonetheless a tiny quantity. There may be little proof of these fantastic inexperienced various vitality analysis packages in BP’s “Past Petroleum” promoting marketing campaign or ExxonMobil’s 2008 “Meet Our Nerdy Researchers” promoting marketing campaign. The demand isn’t there. Our business experiences it’s sitting on trillions of {dollars} in money and it’s amusing itself with growing pc packages that promote pet meals over iPhones and comparable ephemera.

Gasoline Prices

Gasoline Costs

Supply: U.S. Power Data Administration

Oil and vitality costs have soared over the past fifteen years. The US appears to have spent over one trillion {dollars} devastating Iraq’s oil manufacturing and blocking development of pipelines from central Asia by way of Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean throughout this era. Main political figures within the US proceed to advocate for additional assaults on oil-rich nations comparable to Iran(the present main goal), Venezuela, and maybe Saudi Arabia. We’re experiencing the intense financial issues on a world scale that we might count on if cheap vitality provides have been operating out. The issue is apparent. The market alternative is immense. Hmmm. What to spend cash on? Oh, I do know. Twitter! Fb!

Is it good public coverage to attempt to construct a nationwide or international financial system round promoting pet meals over iPhones or promoting promoting on YouTube? Ought to younger folks actually be taking AP Pc Science as an alternative of AP Calculus?

The reply is not any. The large computational energy of in the present day’s computer systems is vastly underutilized as a result of we lack the algorithms and superior arithmetic wanted to correctly exploit these gadgets to unravel our issues, particularly the Massive Issues like vitality, meals, and well being. Our future geeks will want AP Calculus and never AP Pc Science. Luckily, that’s what they’re doing. USA! USA! USA!

A Critical Level

The intense level of this text is that we have to resolve the precise issues that now we have, not fear about fantasy “geek gaps.” Enterprise and business can do that by investing the trillions of {dollars} that they declare they’ve within the analysis and growth of recent vitality sources and different options to the Massive Issues that now we have uncared for whereas pursuing housing bubbles and bizarre, often unprofitable schemes to promote pet meals or different retail objects utilizing new applied sciences.

© 2014 John F. McGowan

In regards to the Creator

John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves issues utilizing arithmetic and mathematical software program, together with growing video compression and speech recognition applied sciences. He has in depth expertise growing software program in C, C++, Visible Primary, Mathematica, MATLAB, and lots of different programming languages. He’s in all probability finest recognized for his AVI Overview, an Web FAQ (Often Requested Questions) on the Microsoft AVI (Audio Video Interleave) file format. He has labored as a contractor at NASA Ames Analysis Heart concerned within the analysis and growth of picture and video processing algorithms and know-how. He has printed articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the invention of methane on Mars), and low-cost entry to area. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the College of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Expertise (Caltech). He will be reached at [email protected].

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