Even as coding becomes more and more relevant to society, I’ve never thought of it as the new literacy. The analogy makes sense to me, but I’m a little skeptical of what good knowing just a little about coding can do for a person (although I guess we learned last week that you need to know about coding/software to drive a tractor these days). I think it’s a good idea to at the very least offer a course in computer science during high school to increase exposure and help students begin to discern what they want to pursue for their futures. My school was going to offer AP computer science, which I had signed up for, but they ended up cancelling it, and there was one computer science course offered in place of it, but I didn’t take it. I think the exposure would have helped me feel a little less intimidated coming to college after I decided to major in it because even though the fundamental/intro courses at Notre Dame are designed so people with no experience can still succeed, I felt like I was behind compared to my peers since I didn’t do anything computer science related prior to coming here.
Coding is being referred to as the new literacy because some people believe that it is almost as important and prevalent as reading and writing in today’s world. In elementary, middle, and high school, I was required to take English, science, social studies, and math classes because these were considered core subjects. Some supporters of required CS classes argue that it is a core skill that students need, while many of the articles for this week suggested that it is important because the demand for computer scientists is outgrowing the supply. I think this is an interesting argument because when I took history classes and science classes, I didn’t feel as though I was taking them to prepare me for a career as a historian or scientist. I was under the impression that they were meant more for me to be intellectually well-rounded and to introduce me to different methods and approaches that are better highlighted in those fields of study. In that sense, I think there is something new to learn from the study of computer science and its thought process that is missing from the other subjects. Skeptics of exposing everyone to programming at a younger age argue that it’s not worth the time and money because some people just aren’t good at it or that we shouldn’t be giving people the impression that everyone can be successful at computer science. I think this impression came from society, and I don’t think offering courses in computer science perpetuates this notion because nobody thinks that everyone who takes an English class will become a best-selling author or everyone who’s ever taken a science class will discover a new particle.
I do agree with people who raise the concern that if we are going to introduce these computing classes, they have to be done right and have good curriculum. Schools will also have to establish standards to see if students are progressing after each grade and fulfill staffing requirements for the different grade levels. They also have to figure out how to incorporate it into their existing framework or schedule. I think that in elementary school, kids should learn binary as a unit in math, and computational thinking should be introduced with very basic examples not in a separate class but as an addition to existing classwork where appropriate. In high school there should be optional electives for those who want to learn more about computer science including introductory programming and logic courses and more advanced computational thinking or current topic studies of how computers are used to solve problems and where technology is headed. This big picture thinking and understanding why can help motivate students to learn how to make it happen. It can also help them recognize patterns that are well-suited to be solved using computer science, its limitations, and other possible applications. As much as the world needs people to make things happen, there is also a need for people to come up with the ideas.
I do think generally anyone can learn to program, and it wouldn’t hurt for everyone to know a little bit about it. Even if there are some people who can’t program well, they can at least learn to understand very basic code to interact with technology that they come across in day-to-day life. It feels kind of petty to me to try to keep coding exclusive to certain groups of people. I don’t think anyone should be forced to study computer science in depth, but I don’t see why people take issue with encouraging students to have a basic understanding of computer science approaches to problem solving, even if they’re not interested in or good at coding. I think the goal of these efforts to bring computer science to the youth needs to be clarified, and I think it should aim to give students the beginnings of a foundation in computing, not to try to make every student into the next Mark Zuckerberg.