In support of the CS requirement in high school

These are the prepared remarks that I delivered to the Board of the Chicago Public School (CPS) System this week at their board meeting. The vote to approve the CS requirement passed unanimously. I spoke along with Don Yanek, a CPS Computer Science teacher. In response to our comments, the board president mentioned that we were “preaching to the choir.” CPS is now the first district to make computer science a requirement on its own. I couldn’t be happier.

And now, onto the remarks:

My name is Brian Fitzpatrick, I am the founder and Chief Technology Officer of Tock, an engineering startup here in Chicago. Prior to that, I founded Google’s engineering office here in Our Fair City, which we grew to over 100 engineers. Prior to that, I wrote software as an engineer at Apple, also here in Chicago.

In the 21 years of my career as a technologist, and in the course of interviewing hundreds, if not thousands of candidates, I have never seen the demand for trained engineers and computer scientists do anything but increase. This demand alone is a very good reason to expose students to computer science at the high school level — we need more computer scientists in the United States, and especially in Chicago.

However, not everyone wants to become an engineer. Not everyone will go to college. Not everyone will be interested in writing computer programs. These are the people who most desperately need to learn computer science at the high school level. The students who don’t already know that they need computer science are the reason I stand here before you today asking you to make computer science a requirement. As you well know, Computer Science is not about learning how to use a word processor, install an app, or fix a printer, it’s about learning how to solve problems. It’s about learning how to learn something new.

Students in high school today are looking at a job market where a lifelong career at one — or even two companies is nonexistent. Rather, they are facing a changing job world where graduation from high school is just the start of a lifetime of learning.

These students are going to need to learn, use, and adapt to new technology and situations in every aspect of their lives, from their TVs and phones at home to every imaginable flavor of software at work — and that’s not just at technology companies.

Computer Science gives every student the tools that they need for this brave new world.

For these (and many other) reasons, I urge you to make Computer Science a requirement for every CPS student.