Discussion: Wanna Teach Kids to Code? Keep It Out of the Classroom

Discussion for article #234530

" The space hosting the programming class described above is run by my father, Paul, a career chemical engineer, in my hometown of New Milford. "

No agenda here at all, move along.

" Outside of the classroom, “there’s none of that stigmatization, peer pressure or self-consciousness about what kids are doing or learning,” my father said. "

So let’s just go all in…no more stigmatization regarding mathematics, reading, or writing either. Same with history, all that horrible peer pressure on school children to try and understand the past. Oh hell, lets just abolish public schools entirely because they only exist to make kids self-conscious.

Seriously, this has to be one of the most bizarre “articles” I have seen TPM publish. A special interest cry to do away with public education?? So we can turn it over to the author’s father and his ilk?

17 Likes

Yet the classes remain relatively affordable; individual sessions start at $15 and a full semester of weekly afterschool classes runs $330, for a program that will all but guarantee more technology education than exists in the majority of public schools.

That is a pretty steep “relatively” given the number of kids in under-served schools that can barely afford lunch everyday. Not to mention unless they are running a shuttle service it completely ignores the non-tuition costs involved such as transportation from school to the program or the possible time it would take from a parents work schedule.

For all it highlights about the work being done outside the school system to educate kids in coding, I’m not seeing much in the way of an argument for “Keeping it out of the Classroom.”

6 Likes

NOT EVERYONE NEEDS TO “CODE”!!!

Sorry for yelling, but for fuck’s sake, the world does NOT revolve around writing programs! Software is a component of many of life’s convenient technologies, but that doesn’t mean we all need to know how to write it!

I guess maybe it could be a little like Shop Class or Home Ec. We learned to type and sew and basic carpentry, so why not basic BASIC I suppose, right? It doesn’t need to be a frikkin’ core curriculum though! There’s WAY more to life than embedded systems.

6 Likes

But corporations need more coding drones so they don’t have to pay them as much.

8 Likes

Disappointing headline seems to reveal the motivation for the author. Look, there is nothing special about going “out of the classroom” when it comes to learning how to code. Coding can be learned in a classroom environment as much as any other kind of education. It is a bit silly to wait for kids to reach high school. Most tech-savvy kids start programming in elementary school.

The article presents no argument as to why coding should be kept out of the classroom. Should we also keep math out of the classroom? Reading? Writing? Should we just give up on education altogether?

Is this article just an advertisement for a niche business model? That’s what it feels like to me.

Look, if I’m tasked with teaching students how to program, this is something I can do whether I’m doing so in a public school, a private lab, or anywhere else. Anybody who argues that the setting matters must have some kind of agenda.

7 Likes

Bullshit agenda much?

3 Likes

I work for a healthcare IP company. One fourth of our employees code. What I have learned over the years is computer programming is really a language skill. The best programmers have a general proficiency in languages. They can work in multiple coding languages across various platforms. They know how to document what they have written.

It is becoming harder and harder to find new coders because it is harder and harder to find young people who know how to write. Most young people have little understanding of how to assemble and convey their thoughts in any language.

To find workers we are now haunting colleges that teach real language and analytical programming skills, not just the latest language popular with the cool kids.

The real role for grade and high schools is teaching language skills. Kids should learn to write in English and at least one additional language. They should learn the rules of grammar in both English and that additional language. They should be taught writing skills that apply universally. Computer programing should be part of learning to write.

6 Likes

Learning how automated systems are built, including how their software is coded, is very helpful to learning how to test, troubleshoot and administer these systems. In particular, coding is the commonest way to teach how to break down technical problems into solvable pieces.

I am a skeptic about the recent push to turn out many more STEM-skilled graduates from our schools. Getting good enough at tech disciplines to be useful and employable takes a whole lot of “wanna”. Most of the publicity I see about the recent STEM emphasis in American education seems to be unrealistic in its expectations.

Getting kids to connect with each other for technical discovery is really important. They need to mutually encourage this, because the successful ones will mostly be those who enjoy it enough that they pursue it outside school on their own.

… Robotics & Beyond’s monthly girls-only coding classes.

Imagine the outrage if a hacker space promoted boys-only activities? The feminists would die of apoplexy over it.

The lack of girls in some activities is not by choice of the organizers, it’s by choice of the girls who choose not to participate. But those who would promote unending favoritism toward girls point to places where girls opt out as “proof” of discrimination, and an excuse to deliberately exclude boys. After decades of saying discrimination is bad, the people who might have been discriminated against in a previous generation think discrimination is pretty cool when they get to discriminate or benefit from discrimination. We didn’t stamp out racial and gender discrimination, we just changed places. Same shit, different assholes.

2 Likes

While Republicans have us all tied up in knots over whether a national curriculum standard is evil, or whether creationism is science, in the UK, they just made computer science part of their national curriculum, at the grade school level. Guess who is more likely to thrive in the generations to come.

3 Likes

I think we need to find out if and why girls opt out of computer programming classes before jump to any conclusions.

The most brilliant programmer I know is our chief architect. She is very much a woman.

3 Likes

The myopia of the author and his father is profound, if not a disingenuous front for an underlying elitism.

The biggest problem with technology education in public schools isn’t that kids are stigmatized for being nerdy. It’s that we don’t fund public education adequately to staff, equip, and run competent modern vocational education programs focused on the work skills needed in the modern economy. I’m old enough to have gone to a school that had a robust Industrial Arts program, with faculty and facilities dedicated to training kids with the basics they’d need to get a start in manufacturing, construction, auto repair, etc. There is no reason not to have similar programs today taking coding & related vocational skills away from the hegemony of math departments (where coding hasn’t fit for over a decade) and giving access to any student who wants to give it a try.

Looking to essentially private extracurricular operations as a model means continuing the insular, privileged, priesthood-like model for software creation. The author seems to almost get this, but despite the last section he swerves around the basic issue of unequal opportunity. Putting coding classes outside of public schools means fees, schedules, and transport issues that preclude participation by kids whose parents are short on cash or flexibility. It’s a useful way to avoid dealing with challenging students and assure that there will never be too many people available to take programming jobs and especially not too many of the wrong sort (you know… uncouth types… The spawn of non-engineers…) It is NOT a way to build a workforce of skilled citizens and/or get off the national habit of importing and abusing indentured long-term temps on H1-B visas whose availability warps the labor market.

5 Likes

Well that part’s pretty easy. Girls drop CS programs because of the guys in CS programs.

3 Likes

True, but we have a real demand in the economy for a low-grade understanding of coding as a basic skill, both in entry-level programming jobs and in jobs where the worker needs to use software and from time to time learn how to use new software, where understanding the basics of how software functions is very useful. There are also a broad range of positions from tool & die maker to business analyst that don’t seem to be programming jobs until you actually look at what they do, which involves a whole lot of specialized coding. Beyond the workplace, everyday life is increasingly populated by computers in all sorts of devices, and it helps in using a modern phone, TV, car, etc. to have a familiarity with how computers in general work.

Public education in the US is never going to produce a stream of skilled programmers ready to take programming jobs and spend their lives in programming careers, just as it doesn’t produce authors, business managers, scientists, machinists, accountants, auto mechanics, or artists. Fundamental programming instruction belongs in schools for the same reasons that traditionally (i.e. before the cancer of Big Test/Low Cost public education) schools have taught math and science and multiple languages and English composition and music and art and history and how to play various sports and carpentry and sewing and cooking and car repair. Secondary education isn’t purely vocational, it should include opportunities for students to get a taste of many things they will never be paid to do, both to find their best areas of focus as well as to gain skills and knowledge that are useful in life beyond being the core of a career.

3 Likes

Girls deny themselves experiences that they really want to avoid a little conflict. Parents protect their daughters and send their sons off to battle. A girl says they don’t want to, parents say OK, and set the pattern. A boy says they don’t want to, parents say don’t be a baby, and set a different pattern. Fathers need to teach their daughters what they teach their sons, a little conflict is not the end of the world, stick up for yourself, don’t cry, don’t quit, just go back and solve the problem. In this androgynous world we’re creating, sometimes women have to man-up, too.

4 Likes

Reading this is like visiting the world of Wally and the Beav.

I have some different concerns for our kids–we don’t have any place to put them when they graduate from either high school or college. Going to college is expensive. It used to be that going to college was a lifetime no brainer, but the level of debt our college graduates are incurring makes that decision more difficult. Our society has not been producing entry level jobs that pay a living wage. Those few entry jobs are heavily weighted toward traditionally women jobs — teaching, health care, etc…

The third party programs the author writes about sound a lot like the sort of “club” programs our schools used to sponsor. Sadly many of those have gone away as our society has funnelled education money into the hands of billionaires by politicians like Sam Brownback.

1 Like

Well, I certainly hope the author’s coding skills are better than his logical thinking skills.

There’s no reason why students couldn’t learn to code in schools. “Tech” is one of the most popular classes at my kid’s school, and there’s no stigma attached to being good in it. (Really? Stigma attached to being the 7th grader who builds the best cardboard Nike hightop? Au contraire…) The main problems are that (a) there’s not enough money for computers for all the kids, or 3D printers, or robotic equipment; and (b) there’s not enough time in the school day, because teachers are too busy teaching to The Test. These are both the result of political decisions, not something inherently incompatible between schools and learning to code.

3 Likes

The idea that you canteach all of the world to code is ridiculous. As a guy who writes code for a living it’s important to pass along a basic truth, most people are never going to understand a programming language. Why don’t we teach all the world’s kids to draw and paint in hopes we’ll have a world full of Leonardo Da Vincis? Because we know that Leonardo was special. So too are really great developers. Steve Jobs once pointed out that the difference between a great hardware engineer and a good one was maybe 3 to 1… but the difference between a great software developer and a good one could be 25 to 1.

We’ve all used bad software. Bad software is worse than no software, right? Let’s stop thinking that if we only train the world to code everyone could be Mark Zuckerberg.

Oh, so ‘Hello World’ is a javascript thing.

Good to know.

1 Like