Do We Need More Coders?

Monday, November 4th, 2013

John Dankoski did a fine show today on coding skills in relation to children, with some brief relational context built from healthcare.gov issues (well, you know, maybe those old systems should be rebuilt). One idea that could have been developed has to do with curriculum. There were two driving questions in the broadcast: do we need more children learning coding (get em into Alice) and do we need more coders (grab some javascript skills). These are two separate questions. Another question is this: should school curriculum include machine logic and engineering in the bag? I think that’s the more significant question.

The reason it’s a significant question is because of the way people think about the purpose of an education. There’s a lot of talk today about S(Science)T(Technology)E(Engineering)M(Math) as a sort of new space-race for the future. But the acronym should be this: STEMH. Doesn’t make for a very good sound, but that H is for the Humanities. Okay, call it STHEM. Let’s say math is difficult. So is writing good poetry.

Let’s say we want to make something really complicated:

this.poem with an argument in the function generatePoem(poem) and eventually we’ll be sorting through an array.

One of the things we need to know is why something can be complicated. I don’t mean complicated in terms of thinking about why an activity might be difficult, like working through limits in calculus. Sometimes complication has to do with thinking about what we “might want” to do. The might adds complexity. For the above javascript we might want to make preexisting data available to the array. We might want to add an argument to the function: genre, for example. How?

The question could be: do we need more poets who can understand the complexities of machine code? BUT ALSO, do we need more coders who can understand human language? Those are good questions too.


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