This article from Ben Tarnoff at the Guardian is one of the sillier articles I’ve read in a while, so I felt compelled to blog about it. Tarnoff argues that code.org, an amazing organization whose mission is to get more kids coding, is actually an instrument of the tech industry to create a larger supply of future coders – thus reducing the average coders’ salaries, thus making the tech companies richer. Um… WHAT?!
The implication that there’s some conspiracy theory underneath teaching kids to code is laughable. While yes, more kids coding is bound to mean more adults coding in the future, it feels irresponsible to state that corporate greed is behind this. The real benefits of kids and coding have nothing to do with company profits, and everything to do with a more effective and smarter future generation.
So what is “coding”? Coding is not about memorizing a language. Coding isn’t even about knowing any kind of technology. It’s about a way of thinking. For kids, it’s not about “knowing Java” – after all, Java or whatever other language may well become extinct in 10 years, knowing how fast tech moves. Coding’s about teaching a mindset of procedural, logical deduction and problem solving. Coding provides a tangible (and dare I say fun!) way to learn logical problem solving skills. Now let me ask you – in what careers might you need problem solving skills? Every. Single. One.
Tarnoff also notes that the median salary for a CS/IT job is more than twice the national average. I’m no economics expert, but doesn’t that mean there’s a much greater demand for that skill set than the average job? That you’re more likely to get a job, a higher income job, as a coder? I know there are folks out there who are coders, who may be having a tough time finding a job. But like any other skill, there are good coders and bad coders. Remember that just because you can code doesn’t guarantee you a job, you have to still be GOOD at it. And as emerging tech like AI, autonomous cars, and cyber-security gain prominence, make no mistake, these require advanced coding skills. These guys aren’t just coding a couple of loops with arrays, they are programming some insane algorithmic logic that furthers the advancement of our world. And I can guarantee you that anyone who can code these technologies will always have a job. A pretty high paying one, at that. I doubt even Dr. Evil could spawn a conspiracy to mass-produce brilliant advanced coders – those guys will always be highly paid, highly sought after talent.
So is coding for kids a grand scheme by the tech elite to save money? Not a chance. Should every kid learn to code, so they understand tech better, and have essential skills for any career (including CS)? Absolutely. To his credit, the author notes that every kid should have the opportunity to learn to code, and understanding how code works is essential for digital literacy. That, I can agree with. The rest of the article? Somewhere between silly and irresponsible.