Learning to Code Should Not Be About Getting a Job

Since our new superintendent arrived last July, she’s been making some high-profile attempts to attract input from the larger community.* One example of that effort is a forum on a service called UserVoice which allows anyone who registers to post suggestions and then comment and vote on the ideas of others.

As of the date of this entry, the top vote getter suggests “Our students should learn to code”, with 989 votes and 24 comments. Slightly ahead of complaints about class size, teacher pay, and the ever-popular issue of later start times for high schools.

Unfortunately, the writer of the coding idea tied it to offering formal computer science classes and helping students better qualify for jobs in that field.

There are, of course, far better reasons that kids need to learn the basics of programming starting in elementary grades. Here’s a comment about the context of learning to code I added to the original suggestion.

Certainly every student should learn the concepts of programming but it has nothing to do with getting a computer science-related job. Everyone should have a good understanding of how the systems that control the world work. Too many people put their trust in technology without having a clue about what goes on behind the screen.

Learning about those processes should be a fundamental part of the school curriculum starting in the lower elementary grades. Some kids will be interested and want to continue in the field. For everyone else, they acquire invaluable knowledge for whatever vocation they follow as well as being a more informed member of society in general.

Do you suppose our superintendent will pay any attention to the idea of students learning to code (other than expanding high school programming classes)? The cynic in me doubts she will. Those concepts are not on the SOLs, and we all know that what gets tested is what gets taught.


* Her “listening tour” arrives in my neighborhood later this month. It may be worth a rant or two.

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