Apparently, if the internets are to be believed, we now need to ensure that every child knows how to code. In a shocking turn of events, these initiatives are supported by people who have made tons of money by having other people code for them. Thankfully, there is some sanity out there on the intertoobz (boldface mine):
To those who argue programming is an essential skill we should be teaching our children, right up there with reading, writing, and arithmetic: can you explain to me how Michael Bloomberg would be better at his day to day job of leading the largest city in the USA if he woke up one morning as a crack Java coder? It is obvious to me how being a skilled reader, a skilled writer, and at least high school level math are fundamental to performing the job of a politician. Or at any job, for that matter. But understanding variables and functions, pointers and recursion? I can’t see it.
Look, I love programming. I also believe programming is important … in the right context, for some people. But so are a lot of skills….
I suppose I can support learning a tiny bit about programming just so you can recognize what code is, and when code might be an appropriate way to approach a problem you have. But I can also recognize plumbing problems when I see them without any particular training in the area. The general populace (and its political leadership) could probably benefit most of all from a basic understanding of how computers, and the Internet, work. Being able to get around on the Internet is becoming a basic life skill, and we should be worried about fixing that first and most of all, before we start jumping all the way into code.
A couple of years ago, it was all the rage to demand that students learn basic statistics (something I support). As the bloom comes off the Big Data Rose, those calls seem to have lessened (unfortunately). Now, in 2014, it’s unclear what coding actually means (solving a math problem? Setting up the software architecture for a server? Routing things through the intertoobz? You get the idea…). Should students have to opportunity to learn programming? Yes, along with a whole host of other electives. But coding should not be seen as an essential K-12 skill, especially if statistical literacy isn’t.
An aside: In college science majors, I would argue that teaching undergraduates the basics of programming should be taught, along with the basics of statistics.