Recently, I was in the unfortunate situation of having to drive more than 300 miles on I-95. During spring break season. Oh, and it was also Easter weekend. For those of you who are not familiar with I-95 (it stretches along the entire eastern coast of the United State) and the associated traffic that happens when everyone from the north migrates down for a warmer spring break and a warmer Easter, consider yourself lucky. So, being aware of the fact that I was about to be in a car for more than 10 hours, I stocked up on TedTalks to listen to. I came across one from a coder named Linda Liukas who was there to talk about coding and how she was engaging young students. Here is a link to the TedTalk.
She starts out with an incredibly important message. She talks about how code is a “universal language” and that we need a “radically diverse group of people” who understand that computers an’t magical and esoteric, but things they can “tinker” with. The idea that coding isn’t scary and is just like learning a different language is something that should be more understood and accepted. After all, learning how to code allows people to create new content and make it accessible. While often coding is put in schools just because of its ‘marketability’ and ‘career readiness,’ without realizing how valuable coding can be.
The great thing about coding is there are a ton of free online resources such as Code Academy that can teach people to code. Unfortunately, that is only accessible if you have a computer and the free time to dedicate to learning coding. According to the Pew Research Center, only 70% of US households have a computer that is connected to the internet, which would severely limit a persons ability to code.
My high school had no computer programming courses available unless you wanted to take one online. This meant that out of all the people who I knew at school (with a total population of 3,000 student), I only knew one person who took programming and that was only because his dad was a programmer and he knew that was what he wanted to do. He now goes to a tech school in New York and recently remarked that if he hadn’t been able to do AP Computer Science, he wouldn’t have been able to major in any field related to programming.
The fact that a huge sector of the workforce could be cut off to students simply because their school didn’t have classes seems a little absurd. Whether or not you think schools should have classes to just foster a love of learning or to prepare students for college and the workforce, technology has become a huge part of society and students should be equipped to use and manipulate it. Coding allows for huge potential as far as innovations in the way our society works, and kids should be able to have a chance to learn how coding works no matter where they go to school.