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Tech Leaders Encourage Teaching Schoolkids How To Code 265

Posted by Soulskill
from the we-need-more-apps dept.
rtoz writes "Code.org has released infographics and a video to explain why students should be taught to code in school. They've gathered support from leaders in politics and the tech industry. Mark Zuckerberg says, 'Our policy at Facebook is literally to hire as many talented engineers as we can find. There just aren't enough people who are trained and have these skills today.' Former U.S. President Bill Clinton adds, 'At a time when people are saying, "I want a good job – I got out of college and I couldn't find one," every single year in America, there is a standing demand for 120,000 people who are training in computer science.' Bill Gates said, 'Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better, creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.' Google's Eric Schmidt is looking beyond first-world countries: 'For most people on Earth, the digital revolution hasn't even started yet. Within the next 10 years, all that will change. Let's get the whole world coding!'" Part of the standing demand for computer science jobs may be influenced by bad policies from tech companies, like Yahoo's ban on working from home.

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Tech Leaders Encourage Teaching Schoolkids How To Code

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  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @02:29PM (#43017291) Homepage

    More "we want cheap labor trained with tax dollars" whining from industry. If there were a shortage of programmers, salaries would be going up. They're not.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @02:36PM (#43017359)
      Exactly. If there was a shortage, people wouldn't be getting fired for being over 30. People who actually can program wouldn't be blown off for interviews after applying because they didn't have every keyword on their resume. Just more justification for more H1Bs into the country to pay them next to nothing.
    • by erroneus (253617)

      Exactly what I was thinking. /discussion

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @02:40PM (#43017411)

      People don't refuse programming jobs because they didn't learn how to do it in grade school.

      People refuse programming jobs because they hate programming, and don't want to deal with the regular long hours, stress, and complete lack of job security that programming comes with.

      Teaching more kids to program won't produce more people who want to do it for a living, but feel free to try.

      Making the job worth learning the skill for, on the other hand, will motivate people (old and young) to self-educate. Of course...that might cost something....

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:06PM (#43017683)

        Most people are capable of being programmers, but they aren't capable of being good programmers. Most people just weren't born with the level of intelligence necessary to be such a thing, and evidence of this is everywhere.

      • by DiSKiLLeR (17651) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:29PM (#43017949) Homepage Journal

        There's PLENTY of job security in programming (and all tech jobs) and salaries HAVE been going up.

        You're just living in the wrong place.

        America is not a country that has job security. Go to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, anywhere in Europe, and enjoy plenty of holidays, great pay and great job security.

        • by hackula (2596247) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:45PM (#43018099)
          This. I am convinced that swarms of "programmers" who gripe every time this subject comes up have not been in the programming job market in 10 years plus. Saying you cannot get through the HR filter is total BS. Any competent programmer knows how to put the right stuff on their resume to get hired. It takes like 20 minutes to add a few keywords to your resume and it takes about 20 minutes of wikipedia per BS keyword to get through an interview. Most interviews are dumbed down to the extreme anyways, since its so difficult to find programmers that you really cannot afford to scare any away. The outsourcing stuff is BS too since most programming involves proprietary data and there is no way in hell that most companies are going to put that in the hands of someone in India or China.
          • by srichard25 (221590) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @07:46PM (#43020335)

            I have been in the programming job market for more than 10 years and I am convinced that many big businesses artificially manufacture "shortages" just so that they can get H-1B Visas to hire foreign programmers for much cheaper. A local big business had 20-30 programming jobs on their website. I applied to many of them. Some of those jobs matched up word-for-word with my resume, yet I didn't get a single call back. Instead, we hear of a ton of new hires coming from India. Most of them moved into a new apartment complex right across from the big business. So many, in fact, that the apartment complex became known as "Little India". You can still see them walking across the street early in the morning and then back again very late at night. They work very long hours, are not able to simply change companies at will, and work for a lower salary. And all the big company had to do was claim that they couldn't find any US citizens to meet the job requirements.

      • by AshtangiMan (684031) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @04:02PM (#43018263)

        I think the biggest change is that people in many fields will be using programming as a tool in their non-programming job. This is already the case, but it is largely informal. Computers as a job tool for everyone are going to move far beyond the office suite, and kids who don't know how to program are going to be less able to compete and contribute in general.

        • by jgrahn (181062)

          I think the biggest change is that people in many fields will be using programming as a tool in their non-programming job. This is already the case, but it is largely informal. Computers as a job tool for everyone are going to move far beyond the office suite [...]

          I certainly hope so, because people are in many ways treating computers as typewriters (and TVs). Lots of boring stuff is done manually or (worse) not done at all, because noone bothered to write a commercial utility to automate it. Or because it's a one-off thing.

          This is where the traditional Unix approach shines. The everyday interactive interface is also the programming interface. There's no false dichotomy between programmers and users.

        • This. A million times this.

          I don't know why all of the top comments on this article are from people whining about the job market and complaining that employers just want free training (lets be honest, all schooling is just free training for employers, its not like calls for better math or science education aren't a result of the fact that those are the key jobs that need to be filled).

          If people are going to be using computers to do 95% of their job, they are bound to run across situations where a littl

        • by Synerg1y (2169962)

          Based on your logic, I can't wait for sales to get access to the prod databases. Update without a where anyone? But no, I'd never let a non-programmer program on any of my systems, end of story, nor will that ever change, nor am i exceptional in that view, sorry bye.

          • I can't tell if you're trolling or not. I have never held a job where I wasn't doing some kind of programming, and I only was a programmer by job title for about a year and a half. Most of the time I was writing code in C, fortran, and scripting languages to help me with the automatable or problem solving parts of various jobs.

            The fact that I grew up peeking and poking the hell out of my early commodore and apple computers certainly helped. I think the paradigm of desktop computer went away from that bec

    • Salaries have been going up steadily in this arena for the past two years. Software Engineering is just about the only industry that has.

      Having said that, if they really wanted to solve the problem, they'd try to educate Human Resources better, and encourage more on the job training instead of refusing to hire anybody without 6 years of experience in a technology that only emerged last year.

      • ,,,, they'd try to educate Human Resources better ...

        You first. Talk about an impossible engineering project.

        • by hackula (2596247)
          This has never been a problem for me. In most places you tell HR you want to hire someone for X position. They ask you what the requirements and nice-to-haves are. They clean it up and put it in a posting. When people respond, they forward it on to you so you can ask them to schedule an interview or not. The HR filter is largely a myth, or at least not really HR's fault. You think the HR person really listed: "C#, Java, Python, FoxPro, Netbeans" under the requirements? Hell no! They don't know what a single
    • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:13PM (#43017759)

      Here's a video [youtube.com] to show you how tech companies in the U.S. today "recruit" American programmers.

      • I am still trying to understand why this video still hasn't stirred up a national controversy.

        Of course the corporate media have reasons to ignore it. CNN, for instance, has admitted to hiring *journalists* on H1-B visas. There is no reason to do that except as a cheep labor ploy.

    • More "we want cheap labor trained with tax dollars" whining from industry.

      By extending your logic, we shouldn't have public schools at all.

      If there were a shortage of programmers, salaries would be going up.

      No, they would only be going up if the shortage was getting worse.

  • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @02:31PM (#43017313)

    Zuckerberg says, 'Our policy at Facebook is literally to hire as many talented engineers as we can find. There just aren't enough people who are trained and have these skills today.' Former U.S. President Bill Clinton adds, 'At a time when people are saying, "I want a good job – I got out of college and I couldn't find one," every single year in America, there is a standing demand for 120,000 people who are training in computer science.'

    Yeah, and those "jobs" wouldn't just be a fiction to get more H-1B Visas, now would they? Of course not, they're all legit, of course.

  • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @02:37PM (#43017377)

    Mark Zuckerberg says, 'Our policy at Facebook is literally to hire as many talented engineers as we can find.

    I'm calling bullshit. I work with plenty of very good developers, and none of them has been contacted by Facebook. If he really wanted to meet them, all he'd need to do is offer a yearly salary of $200k. He's apparently unwilling to do that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      I'd bet talented engineers aren't generally interesting in getting hired by Facebook. Same with Microsoft: gotta hire them right out of college, before they learn better.
    • by loufoque (1400831)

      They've hired quite a few big shots (just like Apple or Google).
      It's just that they're only willing to give a lot of money for the very best.

  • by codepunk (167897) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @02:38PM (#43017381)

    My whole class in high school was taught how to program. The dirty little secret though is genetics play a key role and only a couple of us had any aptitude for it. Most people can be taught to program in some fashion only a few however will every be any good at it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @02:48PM (#43017509)

      And... there you have it. Every kindergarden class has toy xylophones and drums. Most of them don't have a Mozart. A few of them have future part-time musicians. The rest just make noise.

      • by jgrahn (181062)

        And... there you have it. Every kindergarden class has toy xylophones and drums. Most of them don't have a Mozart. A few of them have future part-time musicians. The rest just make noise.

        You know, that's why punk was invented. Making your own music is more meaningful than listening to a recording of Brian May stroking his guitar (or whatever the options were in 1977).

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      The same is true for every subject already taught at school: math, physics, chemistry, biology, history, and whatever other subjects they teach there.

    • by fermion (181285)
      Same here. I took my first class in the summer in middle school on a teletype, moving up to a video terminal in high school. It taught me three things.

      First, it taught me how to make something work. So many times in school there is inauthentic assessment. The results of your work does not actually result in anything, so it really does not matter if it is right or wrong. In middle school this means kids will just fill in blanks or bubble things in to get finished. Because I was doing something that wo

      • by jgrahn (181062)

        Ask me about something real!

        That would, by the way, look really good on a t-shirt.

    • by Burning1 (204959)

      That's fine. The purpose of programs at that level shouldn't be to produce a class full of programmers, but instead to help point students with the aptitude to program towards it as a possible career path.

      I'm in the IT field because of a 3 hour computer repair class I took as a kid. I never expected to enjoy it or be good at it - it's just something I did. Turned out to be the right decision for me.

    • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @04:21PM (#43018453)

      Most people can be taught to program in some fashion only a few however will every be any good at it.

      What's your point? If you aren't good enough to be a professional at something, you should never try it or even be exposed to it? Let's shut down all the Little League games -- "the dirty little secret though is genetics play a key role and only a couple of kids on any team (at most) have any aptitude for it. Most people can be taught to hit a ball in some fashion only a few however will ever be any good at it."

      If kids are never encouraged to try something out, they'll never figure out what they might actually be good at. And many activities teach useful skills regardless of whether the participants are "any good at it" -- baseball might teach coordination, teamwork, whatever, programming might teach critical thinking about problems, etc.

      I fail to see what deserves "+5 insightful" for noting that some people are better at a particular skill than others, or might have a particular aptitude for it... or -- heavens! -- might actually just work hard at it because they're interested rather than being genetically predisposed to be a good programmer.

      (Whatever the hell that means -- I don't think computers have been around long enough to put evolutionary pressure on humans to develop a gene for "good coding." And if you're making a claim about how you're required to have a particular IQ or other intelligence marker we claim a genetic basis for, well, I know a lot of people who are incredibly intelligent but terrible at programming, which is a particular skill that seems to require all sorts of personality and intelligence traits to do well... if you've found a genetic marker for "good coding skills," please let us know!)

      Anyhow, as the Gates quote in the summary says, good programming does require critical thinking skills and logical thinking. We used to do things like this in schools when we required kids to do proofs in geometry classes, for example. How many kids did we ever expect to become theoretical mathematicians?? A much smaller number than we think might end up doing some coding some day.

      Good thinking skills can be transferable. And "genetics" doesn't determine everything about your life.

      • by codepunk (167897)

        My point is just like NFL players you are not necessarily going to turn out more programmers. You are right genetics do not determine everything but they have a very, very large influence. Certainly everyone should be exposed to it just as I had that opportunity.

  • It's been decades since these guys did coding, and back then they didn't have use exclusive platforms requiring register and EULAs and not worry about getting sued. OK so I've not coded in years... but it seems to me whenever IT issues like this arises... here comes another CISPA. Perhaps I'm getting OT but gotta deliver my gripe of the month.
  • by fredrated (639554) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @02:40PM (#43017423) Journal

    Critical thinking seems to me to be the missing education; teach people to think and when they get to coding it will be easy.

    • by fliptout (9217)

      Along the same lines, teach kids some formal logic so they have the proper tools to think critically.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      No, don't teach people to think! Thinking people are much much harder to control, and we need to control them to ensure they'll take lousy jobs, take on lots of debt, vote for politicians that won't change anything, and blame themselves for not getting anywhere in life. Why, this "thinking" would even convince some people that the corporate leadership isn't really all that smart, and that idea is downright dangerous.

      - This message brought to you by the US Chamber of Commerce

      • by fliptout (9217)

        Cute, but most people are probably incapable of critical thinking anyway. That's never going to change.

        What we can do is better develop those with some natural aptitude for it.

    • Critical thinking seems to me to be the missing education; teach people to think and when they get to coding it will be easy.

      Teaching coding is the best way to teach people to think. Most people think they smarter than they really are, [wikipedia.org] but when you have to express your logic in code, it either works or it doesn't.

      As an example of dumb people thinking they are smart, I have found that most people that use the phrase "critical thinking", have no idea what they actually mean. Some mean "formal logic", others mean understanding probability, recognizing logical fallacies, or making sure kids are politically indoctrinated. But in ph

  • Because the shortage of skilled coders the corporations whine about will certainly be ended if we train even more! It's not like there is anyone out there that knows how to write software that's unemployed, is it?

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      But you don't understand. If every high school graduate can code, suddenly coding is comparable to flipping burgers and stocking shelves, so they can fill those "programing jobs" for $8 an hour.

      • If every high school graduate can code, suddenly coding is comparable to flipping burgers and stocking shelves, so they can fill those "programming jobs" for $8 an hour.

        Nail, head.

        Direct hit.

        • At first, I wanted to agree with you and Nadaka, but really that's not quite true. That would be the same as having every high school graduate who managed to dissect a frog without passing out sign up for medical school.

          Sure, some people in HS will actually have the intellect and math background to go on and be successful programmers but most folks aren't going to get past moving a form field around in Visual Basic (or whatever serves for the latest GUI approach to programming these days). High School any

          • That would be the same as having every high school graduate who managed to dissect a frog without passing out sign up for medical school.

            No it wouldn't. Obvious false equivalence here, unless you're trying to imply that coding Javascript requires the same level of intellectual dedication as passing med school and the MCATs?

            Lord, I hope not.

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      You'd have to either suck or be unwilling to relocate to be unemployed.

      • Many Recent College Graduates are the former, and many people who actually have a family and/or invested in real estate are the later. Someday, maybe, HR departments will recognize this fact, and put the extra money they save by hiring an RCG into free training classes, and offer telecomuting options for the more senior positions.

        I can dream, can't I?

        Except it isn't such a dream. I was contacted in my recent 2 month job search by a company 3000 miles from my home who had identified me as a potential recru

        • by loufoque (1400831)

          A decent company will pay your plane ticket for the interview even if no telecommuting is involved.

  • Watching a friend teach kids Java in high school is just painful. They spend way too much time debugging quirks in the languange than debugging their logic. Teaching kids to program in high school/elementry school should be taught differently than teaching kids to program in a particular language. The demographics I've read is that we are having problems getting kids into STEM let alone Computer Science. Teaching kids to program at a younger age should be a good thing, we just aren't doing it right. Di

    • The problem was Java. He should have started with this:
      http://raptor.martincarlisle.com/ [martincarlisle.com]

      • Exactly. Teaching kids Java is the best way to make sure those who might have some interest in programming will lose it forever.
  • There just aren't enough people who are trained and have these skills today.

    Would that have something to do with the way YOU DONT ACTUALLY HIRE ANYONE WHO ISNT A CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL RIGHT OFF THE BAT?

    Seriously, I'm working on my college degree and I cant even get an UNPAID internship without previous PAID WORK EXPERIENCE

    Last time I was in a work interview it went fine up untill the point they asked about my previous job which I hadnt included in my CV because I dont have one (because I cant get hired). After they find out I haven't had an actual job in the business the int

    • There just aren't enough people who are trained and have these skills today.

      Would that have something to do with the way YOU DONT ACTUALLY HIRE ANYONE WHO ISNT A CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL RIGHT OFF THE BAT?

      Seriously, I'm working on my college degree and I cant even get an UNPAID internship without previous PAID WORK EXPERIENCE

      That's one major reason why I'm seriously considering bailing on IT. Another is that I can make a shit-ton more money in the family gun shop (especially with all the politicians bloviating on the topic, makes for good business), and not have to worry about whether or not my skills and achievements mesh with what some fucking marketing drone or HR algorithm thinks they should be.

  • by mk1004 (2488060) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @02:47PM (#43017491)
    Teach every school kid programming. When they're adults they'll think that programming is easy and grip about how much they have to pay programmers at their work.
    • by Georules (655379)
      Possibly. I think they might have a better appreciation for how hard it is to do something more than printing Hello World to a console or moving a turtle (dog, car, whatever) image around on the screen.
  • Industry leaders want plentiful and cheap labour available in their industry sector. More at 11.
  • They claim that there is a huge demand for coders, but the dirty little secret is that the industry is rife with ageism. If you're over 35 these people don't want to hire you.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Tuesday February 26, 2013 @03:07PM (#43017689) Homepage

    Don't teach the kids how to code. Teach them how to program. That means teaching them to think about the problem, determine requirements, clarify requirements (I'm working on one now where it's taking literally days to tease out of the person exactly what they actually want, it's repetitions of my restating what he said and him going "That sounds right, except for..." and then outlining a new thing the software has to do that he hadn't mentioned before), evaluate approaches and settle on a basic design and outline for the software, and finally document the requirements and design. And then once the code's written it has to be tested and debugged, which is another skill set entirely. Plus, while coding you have to think about what tools are available in the language, what libraries are out there, and how they integrate with your code. Often that affects the design of the software, and you need to understand that and learn how to think ahead during the design stage so your design works with the tools you'll need to use while coding.

    Actual coding is the smallest part of the job. Critical thinking, analytical skills, general problem-solving, research, all that is far more important to the job than merely knowing how to crank out code.

    Ask any writer. They'll tell you that the actual physical act of typing out a book is the easy part, it's just time-consuming. The hard parts are all the research and working out the actual story before you sit down to start typing.

  • >> Tech Leaders Encourage Teaching Schoolkids How To Code

    The 80's called - they want their BASIC story back.

  • As many others have pointed out, if there were such a high demand for skilled programmers the base salary/wage would go up. Too often I have seen crazy-stupid job requirements and they are only willing to pay $1 more per hour then MINIMUM WAGE ffs!!!

    But I digress, what schools need to teach is critical thinking, and basic logic-reasoning. (aka trouble-shooting)

    I don't want to program, I don't like it. I enjoy scripting repetitive tasks. The peak of my programming abilities was realized when I developed c

  • It was that way with nurses a few years back. I woke up to a story yesterday on NPR that new nursing graduates can't find work because hospitals are only hiring nurses with previous work experience. They said that even if all the older nurses who have been putting off retirement due to the economy decided to retire, Colorado would still only need 1500 nurses a year, and we're currently graduating 1800 nurses a year. I'm sure these guys would be overjoyed to have a similar programmer glut on their hands.
  • Being self-taught in programming, and benefitting from those skills for professional and personal use, I certainly think that's a useful thing for kids to learn.

    But, "strangely," industry leaders who claim concern about kids learning skills for getting good jobs in the future, never seem to call for education in those skills that have historically had the greatest impact on boosting job prospects for the next generation. Learning from the past, what is it that assures better jobs for the next generation? Pe

  • college trun out people with skills gaps and tech / trades based learning get's over looked

  • The apprenticeship model is needed in tech / IT.

    As there is a lot to learn that can't really be done in a pure classes and top level theroy based classed to not help as much as more hands on classes.

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