Over the weekend I went to HQ to check in with the team. Nothing formal, this is a startup after all, but an opportunity to see what everyone is up to. Being there in person is very valuable for a non-programmer like me. Right now Patdek is polishing features and working out kinks in the software. This requires lots and lots of coding, something I know almost nothing about. The guys were all patient with me, trying to explain what they were working on in simple terms. I think my lack of knowledge was almost comical to them--they have all been coding for so long it comes naturally to them now. We started talking about how they got started on code and it turned into a very interesting discussion about computer science education and education in general.
I went home and by chance saw a post on Facebook about the “Hour of Code.” Strange coincidence that I had just been discussing code and then I learned that this is the start of “code week.” I needed to know more, so I went to the Hour of Code website. Currently, there is a global push to get more people to learn code. The goal is to start with just one hour and go from there. The idea is “anyone” can code--a nice video clip highlighted people from all walks of life talking about how many lines they completed. The president and other celebrities as well as average citizens from around the globe eagerly embraced the concept of “an hour.” It made me want to learn code too, or at least give it a try. Why not?
Well, I found another opinion on this topic. Seems there are always two sides and I stumbled across this blog post from 2012 entitled “Please Don’t Learn to Code.” Experienced programmer Jeff Atwood posted a blog in almost complete opposition to the “Hour of Code” philosophy. He is blatantly skeptical of the notion that everyone can code and even suggests that many programmers are not as skilled as they think. He says, “I would no more urge everyone to learn programming than I would urge everyone to learn plumbing.” Atwood recognizes the value of coding skills, but suggests (rather strongly!) that research and communication skills should be taught universally before code.
Hmmmm. So much to consider. Atwood makes some good points. We can’t all be experts in all fields. Not everyone needs to be a plumber. But I think knowing how to use a wrench to fix a toilet is a vital skill. It would be silly to think everyone who tries coding for one hour will go on to become a programmer. But I do think spreading the knowledge might help some people discover a hidden talent or interest. Making coding more accessible will help attract new ideas and people. And learning a new skill or gaining a deeper understanding of something is always a good thing. Does it deserve the instructional time and attention of reading or math? No way. But should code be part of school curriculums? Definitely. And start young. I wonder how old my son should be before I get him those Lego Mindstorms Rob told me about? I may not be a programmer myself, but I do hope my boys will be more skilled in this area than I am.