The Place of Logic in Computer Science Education

Helmut Veith and I are organizing a special session at the Logic Colloquium in Vienna.  The panelists will be Byron Cook (Microsoft Research), Alexander Leitsch (University of Technology Vienna), Prakash Panangaden (McGill University), Nicole Schweikardt (Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main). The abstract copied from the ASL Committee on logic Education page:

Logic has been called the “calculus of computer science” – and yet, while any physics student is required to take several semesters of calculus, the same cannot be said about logic and students of computer science. Despite the great and burgeoning activity in logic-related topics in computer science, there has been very little interest, in North America at least, in developing a strong logic component in the undergraduate curriculum. Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, departments have set up specialized degree programs on logical methods and CS. This special session, organized under the auspices of the ASL’s Committee on Logic Education, aims to explore the role of logic in the computer science curriculum.  How are computer scientists trained in logic, if at all?  What regional differences are there, and   Is a greater emphasis on logic in the computer science undergraduate curriculum warranted, both from the point of view of for research in CS and from the point of view of training for industry jobs? What should an ideal “Logic for Computer Science” look like?

Byron Cook believes that, in the rush to create engineers and scientists, we have lost sight of the fact that an education should be
broad and place emphasis on principles rather than specific skills such as Javascript.  Logic is the perfect topic in this setting, as it
has application in both humanities and science, and fosters a discussion about mechanics while not requiring a significant amount of
technical overhead.

The Association for Computing Machinery has just chartered a new Special Interest Group on Logic and Computation (SIGLOG).  Education is one of the prime concerns of this new SIG and one of the activities on the SIG’s education committee will be to advocate for a greater presence of logic in the curriculum.  Prakash Panangaden discusses the aims of the new SIG with particular emphasis on its educational mission.

Nicole Schweikardt will report on experiences with designing an undergraduate introductory course on logic in computer science at
Goethe-University Frankfurt.

The University of Technology Vienna participates in a European Masters program in computational logic and has just started a doctoral program in Logical Methods in Computer Science. Alexander Leitsch describes these initiatives and considers lessons other departments can draw from the Vienna experience.

3 thoughts on “The Place of Logic in Computer Science Education

  1. This is a great article, I did take 1 logic course during my computer science degree at Minnesota state. I remember wanting more of that. It also helps makes sense of the whole program and how all the building blocks come together.

  2. Very well said on the importance of logic in computer science. Even during my bachelors, I found more emphasis was put on learning specific courses(Java, Php) rather than going after the principles. After working as a programmer for few years, the best thing I could say is if we can put more emhasis on broad principles, we can create better computer science graduates for the industry. I’m really happy to see that someone is actually caring about this stuff.

  3. Hey Richard, I agree with Byron and I suppose you agree with his view. Its easy to lose sight and actually be closed to insight if we are too technical. I’ve met many technical guys that are very smart, but have a narrow mindset.

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