Drupal Evangelism - Bringing it to the schoolsPosted November 8th, 2007 by Chris
One of the associations / groups I volunteer for is one of ITT Technical Institute's advisory committees. For anyone wondering why, the answer is that they asked and I said yes. They have a couple meetings a year and there's free lunch. Free lunch! Beat that and I'll join your advisory committee, too.
Coasting as I am on a bit of a Drupal high, I brought up the concept of Drupal in the meeting. They hadn't heard of Drupal, nor of any other CMS besides DotNetNuke, which I was a little surprised about. But from what little I know about the school, they give a cursory overview of lots of different tools and disciplines and never get very deep into any section in particular, so it makes sense.
They did seem to get pretty excited about Drupal, though, even though I would assume it would require that they spend more time on the web design aspect of the curriculum. Most of their web students are headed in the direction of web design rather than web development, and the idea of showing them how they can put up a fully functional web site without getting their hands dirty with code is attractive.
The benefits and dangers of teaching Drupal in college
I came across a few articles a while back about a Stanford class that is teaching an entire class on "Creating Engaging Facebook Apps". A whole class. On programming for Facebook. While it's possible that the class exists for reasons that don't have anything to do with landing kids jobs, let's assume for a moment that that the central purpose of the class involves how students may be able to capitalize on this particular knowledge to get jobs or create their own killer startup.
I'm not particularly in the know here, but I would say that the class sets a precedent for how higher education views specialization in web development. Not only can you specialize in a programming language, or in designing intranet vs. extranet sites, but now you can also specialize in the specific technology provided by a single web site. Because there's money there, I would assume.
The scary part
Okay, so say in a couple years there are a couple of universities pumping out kids that are super highly qualified to design and manage Facebook applications. And certain companies are able to captivate huge Facebook because of the sheer number of talented developers out there pooling their creative resources.
And then, something like Google's Open Social comes along and offsets the significance of any single social networking site. Suddenly there is less demand for Facebook programmers and more and more student loans go unpaid.
I suppose this is a scenario graduates face with any specialized technology. Things change. But it would sure suck to graduate and have lost so much mental equity to a Facebook fad. When you feed money into your brain, you should get something back. That's how capitalism works.
But I digress.
Back to the topic at hand - Go Drupal, save The World
So, if a private college offers specialized courses in Drupal, what's to guarantee that Drupal won't be obsolete by the time students graduate? Nothing can guarantee it absolutely, but there are a few good signs that Drupal is gaining a kind of momentum that won't be easily quenched by competitive forces or big, jealous money.
- In an interview with Dries Buytaert, the founder of Drupal, he was asked the longevity question. His answer was smart, which was that most of what is at the heart of Drupal is 'ideas work' (my words). Many of the problems Drupal seeks to answer are not based on a particular programming platform, but are rather broader problems that all applications will run into at some point as they seek to develop a flexible Rapid Application Development (RAD) infrastructure.
- Drupal is open-source, and has already established a culture of sharing as a plausible, workable business model. Big companies like Sony BMG and MTV have hired Drupal developers to program new modules, or improve on existing modules, and then they contribute that code back to Drupal. These are displays of confidence in the open-source model by big companies, in opposition to the 'Mine!' approach of most custom-built CMS's out there.
- Drupal is like an onion - it's smelly, goes good with nachos and ... it has layers. As a programmer works their way into the layers, they continue to like what they see. At it's core, Drupal is based on a number of well thought-out APIs that act as mediators between developers with varying needs. There's very little restrictions at the core that would prevent you from doing exactly what you want to do. But it guides you to do everything in a good way. "Freedom in fences," as my high school creative writing teacher put it. The deeper you go, the more committed a programmer becomes, because they're forced to do things the right way, and not only that, but it's easier to do it the right way, and how can that not give you a warm fuzzy feeling?
The Drupal Tech. Institute?
Probably not, but I'll be excited if Drupal makes it through the miles of red tape it would be required to traverse to make it into ITT Tech's curriculum.