Teachers usually encourage students to prepare thoroughly for final exams so that when students arrive to class on exam day, they are ready to demonstrate their full knowledge of course material. However, this year’s seniors in Rhetoric 2 were told they could not prepare for their final exam. Instead, they showed up to class on exam day, chose a topic from a previously uncirculated list, had 45 minutes to write out a full argument fleshing out their position and supporting reasons, and then were graded on oral deliveries of these speed arguments along with their content.
All of the seniors passed with flying colors – a testament to their consistent growth as thinkers, writers, and speakers over the last two years as they have been challenged in humanities, rhetoric, and other aspects of academic life at Petra. This week, we share with you the three most stellar arguments, beginning with senior Alyx Nettik.
Should Petra continue to develop our computer science program, or does it represent a step away from the classical tradition, which seeks to educate the mind and heart, not prepare students for a trade?
Classical education is a style of teaching that has dated back for centuries. The methods of ancient Greek philosophers can especially be noted. These styles seek to expand the mind and heart towards the knowledge of the world. However, over the years, the method of learning has changed. More modern teaching has to do with trade. Students essentially go to high school to prepare for college. In fact, one of the central focuses of junior and senior year are deciding a field and selecting the best possible college for said field. Among these, computer science is a prominent one.
In recent years, Petra expanded and inserted a computer programming class into the sophomore curriculum. A second class is available as an elective for juniors who want to go further. However, this seems to contradict the mission statement of Petra. This school prides itself on developing the hearts and minds of the students, and it seems to be a popular assumption today that computers close the mind and isolate a person from reality. So the question arises: under these circumstances, should Petra continue to develop the computer science program? I argue that Petra should continue to teach computer programming as it opens the mind towards new skills, and further prepares students for life after high school.
Before I proceed, I must clarify that this argument is for Petra Academy alone. Circumstances may differ at other classical schools, and these situations may not apply to my argument.
The digital age is upon us. Job openings for computer programmers and engineers is on the rise. Ever since Alan Turing developed the fundamentals for the first computer, the realm of computer science has taken off as a genuine field of study. Degrees such as computer science and computer engineering make it possible for a person to devote their life to this kind of study.
First, I must argue for the importance of computer science as a field. The fruits of this department can be found everywhere. Computers and modern automobiles are only a couple results of the hard work computer programmers and engineers. You know the smartphones that you carry around in your pockets? Well, these devices are physical proof of the accomplishment of the people in this field. Smartphones are basically a mini computer. They have a hard drive, memory, power supply, and many other components of a regular desktop or laptop.
Second, I argue that a computer science class is well within the bounds of the classical education program. In my years here at Petra, particularly in the humanities, I have learned the importance of having a critical mind and a heart guided by caritas. I have been given tools to prepare me for the world outside of high school. By including a computer science program, Petra is further enabling students to be prepared for the world ahead. Even if a student’s interest is not in the realm of technology, they will at least graduate with a basic knowledge of computer coding, something that many graduates do not have. For those who want to pursue a career in the field, they have been given a good start.
Finally, computer science provides a mental challenge that is similar to other subjects. Writing, reading, and speaking well takes work. Good speech takes practice, and coming up with valid arguments can sometimes be a pain to think of, but become easier with time. Similarly, students have to learn what code sequences perform certain functions, and have to make sure the program will function correctly.
Some may say that computer science is out of bounds for classical education, and that schools such as these are meant to focus on literature, reading, and writing. These are all very important. Students at Petra tend to graduate with excellent writing skills and a developed vocabulary. These tools, although basic, are very important. However, we live in a world in which the digital age has taken over. Knowledge of computers to some degree seems to be a given. By continuing the programming class, Petra is giving students tools that will help them in this technology filled society.
Others might argue that computers have a reputation to pull a student from reality. After all, kids spend hours in front of video games, completely oblivious to the outside world. Why would this be any different? This is a valid point. High schoolers all over the the world spend hours in front of the screen, refusing to interact with the outside world. I myself love stepping into the virtual reality from time to time. But I would like to point out that the video games themselves are the result of computer programmers who started out learning basic code – perhaps self taught, or maybe from a class like the one at Petra. Video games take hundreds of hours of code, graphic design, and voice acting to produce. It is a form of entertainment that would not be possible if there were not computer programmers and engineers.
In conclusion, the inclusion of the computer science class in Petra’s curriculum was a good choice. Not only does it allow students to learn a new skill that may be used down the road, it also acts as a launching point for those who want to pursue a career in the field. I myself want to go into computer engineering. Even though I was not able to participate in the class, I recognize its importance. It will enable students to go forth into the world with confidence, and allow them to pursue a field that is fast becoming the future of American industry.