Learning to Code With or Without Public Education

The above video is a project by a website, code.org, that went viral a couple years ago. It’s notable for many things: For starters, it has many recognizable faces including that of Mark Zuckerberg, co-creator of Facebook; Gabe Newell, creator of gaming platform Valve, and more. I feel a lot of these faces would only be known by people who have a pre-exposed interest to this subject matter. For that reason, some faces who say they are learning code, including musician Will.I.Am, and Miami Heat player Chris Bosh, are present as well to make this concept appeal to the masses. Maybe that’s a bit cynical on my part, but I digress.

Another noteworthy element of the video, a much more important one, is its message to support the education of programming to just about anyone: kids, adults, students, teachers, the masses. Allegedly, without giving any sources on the matter, only 1 in 4 schools teach computer sciences. Again, that’s my cynicism showing.

I agree that this is a complex problem that is worth talking about. As a matter of fact, I believe computer sciences are worth teaching in public schools in the United States. However, as one of my colleagues mentions in their post on this very blog in an interesting hypothesis, as a computer scientist, why teach when you could make twice your starting salary doing, almost literally, anything else with your degree and experience? It has way more benefits, higher pay, and it leads to exponentially better opportunities than teaching. This is a problem, but to that I ask, do we need to teach computer sciences in public schools?

I ask this because, despite whatever reason public grade schools aren’t teaching this subject matter, it’s worth mentioning that this vital information for the 21t century is still making its way through the public minds. It’s no secret that Comp Sci is one of the largest growing programs in schools all across the country due to the demand. Universities are aware they could potentially give rise to the next great, historic programmer and they are going to capitalize on that. So people are learning programming in university, evidently, but what about when they are in public school?

I have noticed two things: either many university students have limited experience with programming prior to their entrance into the respective major at their university, or they learned all of their experience without the assistance of a public school program in high school.

It needs to be acknowledged that Comp Sci is like learning how to use the software that is made with code; you learn by doing. Experience is exceptionally important, more so than a formal education, especially when looking for jobs in this field; employers care much more about abilities and portfolio than a degree, ultimately. As such, with the help of online education services like code.org, codeacademy.com, and khanacademy.org, young individuals can learn to program on their own with their free time (or in school) while the information is still intuitive. Due to the simplicity of these tools, adults can grasp these concepts as well.

There are more tools than ever to facilitate the learning of this subject, and evidently through the popularity of these websites, the conscious efforts of people in the industry is working, it’s just not appealing to public schools. That, to be fair, might not be necessary.

Learning to Code With or Without Public Education

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