[SF Chronicle] Cisco Kids.

I Find Karma (adam@cs.caltech.edu)
Sun, 13 Dec 1998 02:54:33 -0800 (PST)

We knew it would happen eventually, and that it was going to probably
happen in Silicon Valley first. The good news is that networking
classes in high school will give teens practical skills they can use to
get decent-paying jobs. The bad news is positioning: to take a
networking class, won't a kid have to give up a foundation class like
history, math, english, or science? Furthermore, it sets up a slippery
slope where suddenly high school can become nothing more than a
feeding ground for industry:

> It raises a red flag, she said, because corporations shouldn't have
> control over public school curriculum. ``When a company comes in saying
> `this is what we need to teach you,' it blurs the line in a dangerous
> way.''

Full story is at


included below. So with a Cisco-sponsored program, can Intel- and
Microsoft-sponsored classes be far behind?

> The Cisco Kids: Company sponsors networking classes in high schools
> Deborah Solomon, Chronicle Staff Writer Friday, December 11, 1998
> For three years, Sabrina Castillo lived on the streets of San Francisco
> -- doing drugs, hanging out with friends and avoiding school.
> Today, the shy 18-year-old is learning how to build and manage complex
> computer networks and dreaming of a job at one of Silicon Valley's
> high-tech companies.
> The striking transition from street kid to computer aficionada came
> after Castillo was sent to a drug rehabilitation program. It was there
> that she heard about Cisco Systems' Networking Academy -- a nationwide
> program for high school students who want to pursue careers in
> technology.
> She enrolled in the academy at Sequoia High School in Redwood City and,
> along with about 30 other students at the school, is learning about the
> inner workings of computer networks.
> The students at Sequoia are among the thousands that Cisco hopes to
> train, certify and, perhaps, recruit as part of its nationwide program.
> The Santa Clara company has set up academies in more than 1,000 schools
> across the country and also offers the program overseas. More than
> 17,000 students are now enrolled in a Networking Academy, which operate
> in all 50 states.
> The program is open to any student -- there is no prerequisite or
> entrance exam. It gives kids a chance at a $40,000- a-year job out of
> high school. Although it's designed mainly for students who don't plan
> on going to a four-year college, some students who do plan to attend a
> university take the course for experience.
> Cisco launched the program a little more than a year ago to help fill a
> high-tech worker shortage. The tech industry has been plagued by a
> severe lack of skilled workers and has struggled to fill jobs that
> require intense training.
> The program is designed primarily for juniors and seniors in high
> school, who take the courses during regular school hours as an elective,
> much like wood shop or home economics.
> Students are taught at the school by a staff teacher, usually a computer
> science instructor. But the curriculum is provided online by Cisco.
> Tests are also administered on the computer, although some teachers
> substitute their own written exams.
> At the end of the two-year program, which takes 280 hours to complete,
> students get a certificate that qualifies them to be network
> administrators. Students can get summer internships at some of the
> high-tech companies where they might want to eventually work.
> ``This puts kids on track to a high- paying job,'' said Keith Fox,
> Cisco's vice president for worldwide corporate marketing. ``And it will
> give them the opportunity to learn the new life skills that they most
> likely will require into the next century.''
> Any high school in the country can become a Networking Academy,
> according to Cisco, as long as it has a dedicated instructor, can afford
> the equipment and provides the space for the networking labs.
> Cisco donates the curriculum and online support, but schools must pay
> for the networking equipment, which costs about $14,000. Schools also
> pay about $2,500 to have the academy's teacher trained by Cisco. Many
> schools apply for grants from the state or nonprofit agencies to cover
> the costs.
> Community colleges can also host regional networking academies and offer
> the courses to high school grads.
> While the program aims to help students set a career path, the program
> is by no means altruistic. By getting junior and senior high school kids
> certified as network administrators, Cisco figures it can create a
> well-educated, skilled workforce.
> ``The reason we did the program was fundamentally to address a worker
> shortage,'' Fox said.
> That has concerned some critics, who fear the program is yet another
> intrusion by private corporations into the public education system.
> A Cisco banner hangs at the Sequoia High School Networking Academy, and
> the company's logo is seen throughout the online curriculum. Cisco also
> sends guest speakers and provides tours of the company and others in
> Silicon Valley.
> Marianne Manilov of the Center for Commercial-Free Public Education in
> Oakland said the academies sound more like job-feeding programs than job
> training.
> ``It sounds like they're using public funds to do job-feeding to the
> company,'' Manilov said.
> It raises a red flag, she said, because corporations shouldn't have
> control over public school curriculum. ``When a company comes in saying
> `this is what we need to teach you,' it blurs the line in a dangerous
> way.''
> Manilov also said the time spent in the program gives students less
> exposure to other courses, such as language, math or science. ``That's a
> lot of time in front of the computer and it's not adding to any other
> training,'' she said.
> Those involved in the Networking Academies say the program is helpful
> and that students wouldn't be able to learn these skills if Cisco didn't
> provide the curriculum.
> Some students, like senior Richard Porter, say they don't want to work
> for Cisco, but would rather start their own businesses with the skills
> they learn in the academy.
> ``The hands-on labs and the curriculum really teaches you a lot and it
> sticks with you,'' said Porter, 17. ``I didn't know anything about this
> before but it's opened a lot of doors to me. Now I think want to have my
> own network consulting firm.''
> Cameron Dodge, one of the two academy teachers at Sequoia, said the
> program provides a great opportunity to some students who would normally
> have gone on to minimum-wage jobs after high school.
> ``Part of the goal is to bring kids into an environment where they can
> learn to earn two to three times what they would make at minimum wage,''
> said Larry Wagner, another academy instructor.
> For Castillo, the chance to make good money and work at a Valley company
> is reason enough to slave through the course, which she and other
> students said is challenging.
> ``It's hard, but I know this will help me out,'' Castillo said. ``I was
> on and off the streets for three years and this is definitely different
> from what my life used to be like. But I've always liked computers and
> now I want to get certified and go work for a big company.''
> For more information on Networking Academies, go to
> http://www.cisco.com/edu/academies


Our critics are our friends, for they do show us our faults.
-- Bill Clinton quoting Ben Franklin in a speech, 12/11/98