Is Java Bad for Computer Science Programs

Joel Spolsky just put out another fantastic article. This time it is on The Perils of Java Schools. It talks about how the ease of use of Java (feature of the language) tends to not weed out those that don’t really have the mindset to be good computer scientists.

In part I do agree with this. I have seen this firsthand at the university I graduated from. I took a data structures course in C++ that was the most challenging course I have ever had. Lots of pointers, lots of crashing my development machine while incorrectly manipulating those pointers, lots of Big O Notation and efficiency talk. Good stuff, and it made me a better programmer through the experience.

Fast forward to today, and the department at that university has moved to eliminate data structures in C++ except for those doing a pure Computer Science path (versus the other two tracks in Information Systems and Information Technology which do a “data structures” course in Visual Basic).

While I love Java dearly (and am certified in it and use it daily in my day job), I agree that data structures in C or C++ is hard and necessary to weed out those that don’t belong in the field. I have a friend that worked in the department and taught the data structures course in C++. He caught an amazing amount of flack from the administrators for the drop and failure rate in this course. They viewed it as a bad thing, I think he was doing these kids a valuable service by making the course challenging (and fair I might add). He was also doing a great service for programmers as a whole. Nothing worse than second rate programmers watering down the quality and pay scale in our industry. Hurts us all in the long run. Things like this tend to highlight that higher education (like almost everything these days) is really a business at its core. The adminsitrators want warm bodies paying tuition for 4 to 5 years so they can pay salaries, get raises, and eventually retire. The focus isn’t always on education, lifelong learning, and achieving a well rounded intellect.

Check out the article and let me know what you think…

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1 Response to Is Java Bad for Computer Science Programs

  1. Brian says:

    Very interesting article and very true. Data Structures was hard, it had you thinking in a totally different way than previous. I had a good teacher for it and I know it made me a better programmer. It totally threw me back to learn that IS and IT didnt have to take the course anymore, stupid decision in my opinion, yet they get the same degree as I have. The freshmen courses are not teaching what they should be and the teacher left because he was the last line of defense between idiot500, who does not have the knowledge nor possesses the ability of being a programmer from continuing in the program and getting the same degree as us.

    Thats my 2 cents.

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