Reading, ‘riting and coding

“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think,” said Steve Jobs.

Code.org is launching a campaign to persuade schools to offer computer programming: Nine out of 10 high schools do not.

Less than 2.4 percent of college graduates earn a degree in computer science, fewer than 10 years ago, despite rising demand for programming skills, according to the nonprofit group.

Code’s site includes links to online apps and programs that teach programming. Some are geared to young children.

Should kids learn programming, as they might study a foreign language, to develop thinking skills?

Coding isn’t just for boys — but sometimes it seems that way — reports the New York Times.

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Comments

  1. Jobs/Gates/Zuckerberg have ‘learn to code’ in public school on the brain.

    I’d actually prefer that the students learn how to read, write, spell, and handle basic math skills like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages, fractions, place value, real and whole numbers, etc.

    They keep harping on the need for more technical talent, but refuse to understand that not everyone will have the necessary skills to be able to code at a proficient level.

    Most of the security holes these days found in software is the result of not paying attention to writing good solid code which is properly tested before it goes to consumers.

    Then again, I guess the CEO’s think everyone is going to be a programmer (guess again).

    Sigh

  2. First, programming is not a “foreign language”. It is a formal language. It is a fundamentally different thing than natural, human language. It is a machine language. I know, I’ve been working in search engines for fifteen years. Those are natural language processors written in formal languages. Yeah, it is a crazy idea, but it kinda works.

    I would say instead that everyone should learn to solve problems inside a formal system of rules. That can be geometry proofs, programming, or robotics. All that matters is that the system rejects all your attempts to BS it. You must follow the rules to get results.

    So English grammar is out, because grammar ain’t as all totally rule-like as some people think, yo. Same thing with law. Really, grammar and law are harder because they are a subtle mix of precision and interpretation.

    Before you mix them, it is a good idea to learn precision and interpretation separately.

    If they aren’t teaching proofs in geometry, then sure, teach programming.

  3. palisadesk says:

    My, my — everything old is new again. There was a big craze a few decades ago to teach very young children computer programming with LOGO — remember that?

    Here are some links:
    http://www.papert.org/
    http://logo.codeplex.com/
    http://el.media.mit.edu/logo-foundation/logo/index.html

    When I taught in our district’s gifted program, this was one of the initiatives in place. I remember it as interesting and as fostering logical and organized thinking, but I don’t recall anything especially creative taking place. Maybe I just missed it.

    The problem with a lot of these ideas for additional things to teach in school is that they bypass the discussion — what are we going to take OUT in order to teach this new thing? The curriculum is pretty bare-bones as it is, and many areas are already given extremely short shrift.

  4. Kirk Parker says:

    I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think,”

    I could offer more than one former colleague as counter-examples.

  5. Michael E. Lopez says:

    You’d get the same — or at least a very similar — effect from teaching formal logic.

  6. it’s true that anyone can learn to code, just as anyone (except the severely disabled) can learn the play the piano. Just as learning to play the piano teaches many things besides the piano, coding teaches many things (“patience” comes immediately to mind).

    This is true for geometry and algebra as well. I think a bigger take-away here is that EVERYONE should learn some formal disciplines. Music, math, programming, grammar: there are many formal disciplines and each teaches useful things in addition to the subject matter.

    If you avoid all of these, the result is kids raised without any sense of any formal discipline and that just leads to mushy and wishful thinking – the sort of thinking you see in Congress and (pardon my impropriety) the news media.

    While it’s fairly easy to avoid “rigor” when asking “Do you want fries with that?”, there are still many, many jobs where rigor is absolutely necessary. In a world where kids aren’t subject to music or algebra or programming or any other formal discipline, who is going to do those jobs?

  7. Anybody can learn to code? Are there any authenticated examples of individuals with IQ’s below 90 being able to hold down a legitimate job as a computer programmer? About 25% of the US population (and about 50% of the world population) have IQ’s below 90.

    • actually, anyone can learn to code is quite correct, but can they do it well enough in order to make an actual living doing it as a career?

      There’s question that needs to be asked.

      Additionally, the CS/IS/IT world is full of people who can write code, but given the issues with security anymore, are there people who can write code with security in mind first, and usability second?

      The old mantra was to ‘write the program first, and slap the security on afterwards’, which in today’s internet oriented world can be very bad for companies and individuals 🙂

      • Back in the earliest days of the computer it was thought by many that random high school graduates could be taught to program directly in machine language. This was at a time when the capabilities and memory of computers were next to nothing compared with today’s hardware and there was no system software.
        No doubt programming today is a lot easier than back then but the notion that anybody can be taught to program is fantasy.

  8. I certainly don’t object to public schools offering courses in computer programming to those students with the ability and inclination to benefit from them. But the goal of teaching every or even a majority of students computer programming is totally unrealistic.