It’s time for midterms, and one of the things I do while proctoring exams is to read papers that I’ve collected but never found time to look at. Yesterday I read a paper that made me appreciate one of the benefits of teaching computing. In Setting Course Goals: Privileges and Responsibilities in a World of Ideas, Ludy Benjamin talks about trying to understand the purposes that students have for taking introductory psychology classes. He reports some of the reasons students have given when asked why they’re taking his class(es), and some of them are downright hilarious:

  • Nothing else was open at the time
  • It is in the same room as the class I am taking just before your class
  • Because my boyfriend is in this class
  • Because my mother took this class from you 24 years ago and she said I could use her notes

Computing classes are simply too intimidating for most students, and they aren’t there unless they are required to take it for their major or minor. Only once have I ever had a student who told me that he took a programming class with me because it fit into his schedule. He was an accounting major, and as it turns out, one of the most talented students I’ve ever had in the Python classes. So it’s not always a bad thing when students happen upon classes. But students in computing classes usually have a more substantial reason for being there than scheduling ease.