Tasneem Raja from MotherJones makes a case for coding to become top priority in public school classrooms. Coding has been making its way into the public school curriculum slowly but with an elective and extra-curricular status. Raja calls for its importance to be weighted equally with reading and writing, if not ranked above the traditional literacy platforms:
In other words, computational thinking opens doors. For while it may seem premature to claim that today every kid needs to code, it’s clear that they’re increasingly surrounded by opportunities to code—opportunities that the children of the privileged are already seizing. The parents of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg got him a private computer tutor when he was in middle school. Last year, 13,000 people chipped in more than $600,000 via Kickstarter for their own limited-edition copy of Robot Turtles, a board game that teaches programming basics to kids as young as three. There are plenty of free, kid-oriented code-learning sites—like Scratch, a programming language for children developed at MIT—but parents and kids in places like San Francisco or Austin are more likely to know they exist.
Computer scientists have been warning for decades that understanding code will one day be as essential as reading and writing. If they’re right, understanding the importance of computational thinking can’t be limited to the elite, not if we want some semblance of a democratic society. Self-taught auteurs will always be part of the equation, but to produce tech-savvy citizens “at scale,” to borrow an industry term, the heavy lifting will happen in public school classrooms. Increasingly, to have a good shot at a good job, you’ll need to be code literate.
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