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I read recently that hybrid careers that combine computing with other fields from medicine to Hollywood, will increasingly be the new American jobs of the future. These jobs do not match the classic computer geek, gear head or nerd image — a heads-down programmer, who is socially isolated. In the new hybrid careers, computing is a crucial ingredient and, economists say, such work will be the source of many new jobs of the future.

Basically, the nation’s economic future is dependent on the minting of more cool nerds. The problem is that not enough young people are embracing computing — often because they worry about being branded nerds, geeks and gear heads
Educators and technologists say two things need to change: the image of computing work, and computer science education in high schools. Teacher groups, professional organizations like the Association for Computing Machinery and the National Science Foundation are pushing for these changes, but so are major technology companies including Google, Microsoft and Intel as well as the federal government (as part of the economic stimulus, federal financing for science and technology education has increased and furthermore, its multibillion-dollar program to accelerate the adoption of computerized health records may generate more than 200,000 jobs).
So everyone is jumping in to help, but charging forward on the premise that we are losing potential computer scientist and hybrid careerist to name calling and apparent social stigma. One movement has even proposed banning the terms “geek” and “nerd”. That’s nice and maybe what our mothers would have us all do, but I think it requires a little different view and some reliance on our capitalist core.
Programming is a highly intellectual (not cool) and sometimes heads down (not cool) task. Young people may be initially intrigued by flashy graphics and cool tools but the nerd quotient of the work increases as one moves deeper into the field. Computing, computer science and future hybrid careers will escape the nerd stereotype by succeeding in the metric of high social status: MONEY. Computing is an economically successful field, we need to stress that as a computing professional you can get the thing everyone wants: MONEY, which leads to social capitol.
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Young people today have large and disturbing gap in their knowledge of history and civics.

  • One-third of fourth graders do not know what it means to “pledge allegiance to the flag.”
  • Twenty-eight percent of eighth graders do not know the reason why the Civil War was fought.
  • Nearly one in five high school seniors think that Germany was an ally of the United States in World War II.
  • A little over a third of young Americans can’t tell you the length of a term of a member of the House of Representatives.
  • Graduating seniors at some of our leading colleges and universities cannot correctly identify words from the Gettysburg Address, or do not know that James Madison is the father of the Constitution.
  • Fewer than one in two young people (18-24) bothered to vote in the 2004 presidential election.

These findings are disturbing and threaten the future of our democracy. Our schools have greatly diminished the emphasis on history, social studies and civics. These subjects have lost out to rote preparation for high-stakes tests. Civics education, once a mainstay of the grade school experience, is now just a quaint idea.George W. Bush is not one you will hear me quoting often, but we actually agree in this area:

“American children are not born knowing what they should cherish — are not born knowing why they should cherish American values. A love of democratic principles must be taught.” – George W. Bush (Speech Introducing Civics Initiatives, 9/2002)

The Heinlein Maneuver will address this disparity, study the rights and duties of citizenship, and prepare the young men we touch to be informed and active citizens.The Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF) has an online History & Civics Quiz. Check out your civics IQ, and help us develop a civics curriculum.

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