Is there another way to teach about stopping viruses without providing adequate knowledge so that the students could write a virus? The answer is simple: No. Anyone who claims they can fight a virus but could not write one is either uninformed or trying to mislead for other reasons.
And then there are the naysayers (from an InformationWeek article on the statement):
"That is utterly ridiculous," says Pete Lindstrom, research director for Spire Security. "There are plenty of ways to gain the same level of knowledge other than the destructive knowledge of having students create new viruses. We don't teach sex education by having students have sex in class."
I'll tell you what's utterly ridiculous: comparing malware to sexual intercourse. Any couple, and I do mean any couple, can have sex. Understanding malware well enough to design defenses against it? Not so much. Sex education protects our kids; we're pretty sure they've figured out most of the act by the time they're sitting in the class. If I complete that analogy, we're talking about a course that teaches students the dangers of executable e-mail attachments. :-/ I'm sorry, we're expecting a whole lot more from these graduates.