Computer Science: This Generation’s Impressionism?

Check out an article one of my former students wrote for the Dallas Morning News!

, The Dallas Morning News

Betsy Smith for Voices, photographed August 2, 2013. (Evans Caglage/The Dallas Morning News)

“You should drop out of school and become a poet. Don’t worry about paying the bills.” This is something a child will never hear his or her parent say, and for us creative types, it can be frustrating.

I have struggled accepting the fact that although a career in the arts would make me happy, it would not be a practical career choice. I refuse to go to medical school, do not want to be a lawyer, and would make a terrible psychologist.

Two years ago, when selecting the classes I would be taking the next year, yet another science stared me in the face: computer science. Since it is a mandatory class, I had to take it, but I signed up grudgingly. I had every reason to believe I would loathe the class; according to every personality test I had ever taken, I am not the engineering type and despise limitations.

However, after the first day of school it was clear I would love the class. Why? Because computer science is actually art.

Whether you are designing a website, animating a cartoon, creating an app, or coding a robot, you have to use creative problem solving and have an open mind. There is no right answer, but there are few wrong answers. The class was challenging, but it was also fun to see which way I would solve the puzzle.

Our first assignment was to design a website. I could decide the layout, had control over the content, chose pictures and coordinated a warm autumn color scheme for the site. Basically, it was like painting without needing superior motor skills.

The next task was to digitally animate cartoon characters to make a holiday card. After choreographing a two-minute dance routine for a cartoon polar bear and reindeer, I am confident I could score an internship at Pixar.

Our third project was my favorite, probably because it was similar to writing. We could choose any global issue we were passionate about and design an app to spread awareness or help fix the problem. Authors, journalists and poets alike all write about what they are passionate about, hoping they can expose the problem and even make a difference. App designers are just like writers, only they work on a digital platform.

I had a choice to make for every element of the app. I could use links, location trackers, multiple screens and efficient picture buttons, just as writers use words, devices and sentence structures to make their point.

I had limitless opportunities to create something avant-garde in computer science if I chose to look at my assignments with the same perspective I use for art classes.

Everything is technologically driven now. All companies have websites; social media has taken over the world. Flying cars have even been invented (a fact I learned from my computer science class). But technology still needs creative minds to push the envelope and discover new ideas.

Thousands of jobs are created yearly for computer science majors, but there are not enough people out there to fill these jobs that will advance the country. The industry needs innovative artist types who can team up with the engineer types to create new, artistic programs.

Fellow creative students, you could work for Twitter and still have time to paint on the side, but this way you would be using the right side of your brain the whole day.

Impressionism was the new art form of the 1800s, photography was revolutionary in the 20th century, and the 1980s were home to performance art. A century from now, when people look at history books, they will see computer science as the major art movement from this age. Will you be a part of it?

Betsy Smith of Dallas is a junior at Ursuline Academy. To respond to this column, send an email to


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