Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Earlier this year, The Kernel published a great piece by Andy Young, worth reading in full, that makes a passionate case for teaching kids to code.  Here are a few excerpts:

The use of tools is a big part of what make us human, and the computer is humanity’s most powerful tool. . .  In offices and homes the world over, each and every one of us at some point undertakes tasks of a repetitive, tedious or complicated nature, tasks that could, are or eventually will be automated or eased by computer. The computer makes us more efficient, and enables and empowers us to achieve far more than we ever could otherwise.

Yet the majority of us are entirely dependent on a select few, to enable us to achieve what we want. Programming is the act of giving computers instructions to perform. This is true whether the output is your word processor, central heating or aircraft control system. If you can’t code, you are forced to rely on those that can to ensure that you can benefit from the greatest tool at your disposal.

Who can shy away from the attractiveness of giving instructions and having things done on your behalf? The ability to code is what brings the power of computing to the masses. We need to break away from a culture where we consider people to be “technical” or “non-technical” – not everyone takes to literature or eloquent composition of prose, but we need to attack the phenomenon of the “non-technical” in the same way that we tackle illiteracy.

Young also takes care to articulate what coding is and isn’t.  Learning to code, he explains, is not training to be a professional programmer. Learning to code is not even necessarily learning to become fluent in the syntax and functionality of a specific programming language.   Learning to code is learning to use logic and reason, and express your intent in a consistent, understandable, repeatable way.  Learning to code is learning to get under the skin of a problem and reduce it to its simplest form.

Learning to code, he continues, is learning not to be afraid of experimentation and developing a basic understanding of concepts that allow you to take things and tweak them to fit your needs.
Young also points out that early training in computer science will allow future professionals to potentially get a decade of early experience, giving them expertise that will accelerate their professional training at university or on the job.

He concludes:  “a thorough grounding in logic, reason and problem-solving – coupled with the empowerment and inspiration that being able to harness technology to our personal advantage brings – will result in a smarter workforce, more engineers, innovators and managers that better understand technology, and a better quality of life for all. So let’s teach the kids to code. All of them. ”

There are many interesting links in the article and a lively discussion in the comments that follow.
Coding for Success by Any Young published January 23, 2012 in The Kernel

1 comment:

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