Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Cyber Challenge

He calls the Cyber Challenge a good news/bad news story.

"The good news is that [the participants] have that inherent skill. ... I've met many youngsters who are really, really gifted with computers," he said. "The bad news is that we're not developing that talent to the Ph.D. level in things like computer science or electrical engineering, the things that are the foundation of this wonderful technology."

This quote came from Former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell at the recent Cyber Challenge, a contest used to find hackers who have the skills to defend our computer infrastructure. Hackers are still home grown. We don't have a formal method to grow them. Once again schools are woefully ill equipped to support the countries needs. In this case it is in the very important area of security. Now we as a nation do very well in creating physical security forces like soldiers and police, but we don't seem to be able to grow the cerebral defenders of democracy and our way of life. In fact these kids who may one day be more important in our security are bullied in schools, called geeks, nerds, and mocked by their classmates who in too many cases become those physical defenders in bullying tactics often times seen by other peoples in other countries as counter productive in our real intentions. Then these geeks have to come along and clean up the mess made by the physical mistakes.

We see a transformation in our military in the use of drones, of spy sateiliites, and computers are we redefine the waging of war. Now we see the need to incorporate the dark side of computing, hacking, to defend and clean up the mess.

Hacking has always been considered evil, bad, and part of the dark powers of computing. I always prided myself as a hacker because I have had to use skills to make things work in my classroom for the benefit of my scholars. I'd hack the early software to make it work my way, rather than the way some computer programmer planned my path. Certainly when we see kids in our schools doing things on our computers that look unfamiliar or when they have rendered the computer under their control, we see teachers and administrators swoop in and stop all activity, making the person run and do this in the privacy of hir own house. We have created the hacker culture. Much of our literature on the topic shows hackers to be bad, unless they can be turned to do good, if only temporary. Mitnick, one of the celebrities was jailed for his behavior and then upon release from jail he got a lucrative job in computer security. This may send the wrong message. Break the law and then get rich doing good. Another instance where schools are falling short.

The New York Times has reported on this as well. Those who once called nerds, are now wealthy and the industry is seeking ways to encourage the young to become more computer savvy and embrace the technology industry.

Ironically, The Washington Post has reported that very few schools offer computer science courses. Even though all students use the Internet, few know how it works or how to be producers instead of consumers. Could this be the result of increased test prep?

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