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Code.org Documentary Serving Multiple Agendas? 226

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the kids-love-windows-eight dept.
theodp writes "'Someday, and that day may never come,' Don Corleone says famously in The Godfather, 'I'll call upon you to do a service for me.' Back in 2010, filmmaker Lesley Chilcott produced Waiting for 'Superman', a controversial documentary that analyzed the failures of the American public education system, and presented charter schools as a glimmer of hope, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-backed KIPP Los Angeles Prep. Gates himself was a 'Superman' cast member, lamenting how U.S. public schools are producing 'American Idiots' of no use to high tech firms like Microsoft, forcing them to 'go half-way around the world to recruit the engineers and programmers they needed.' So some found it strange that when Chilcott teamed up with Gates again three years later to make Code.org's documentary short What Most Schools Don't Teach, kids from KIPP Empower Academy were called upon to demonstrate that U.S. schoolchildren are still clueless about what computer programmers do. In a nice coincidence, the film went viral just as leaders of Google, Microsoft, and Facebook pressed President Obama and Congress on immigration reform, citing a dearth of U.S. programming talent. And speaking of coincidences, the lone teacher in the Code.org film (James, Teacher@Mount View Elementary), whose classroom was tapped by Code.org as a model for the nation's schools, is Seattle teacher Jamie Ewing, who took top honors in Microsoft's Partners in Learning (PiL) U.S. Forum last summer, earning him a spot on PiL's 'Team USA' and the chance to showcase his project at the Microsoft PiL Global Forum in Prague in November (82-page Conference Guide). Ironically, had Ewing stuck to teaching the kids Scratch programming, as he's shown doing in the Code.org documentary, Microsoft wouldn't have seen fit to send him to its blowout at 'absolutely amazingly beautiful' Prague Castle. Innovative teaching, at least according to Microsoft's rules, 'must include the use of one or more Microsoft technologies.' Fortunately, Ewing's project — described in his MSDN guest blog post — called for using PowerPoint and Skype. For the curious, here's Microsoft PiL's vision of what a classroom should be."
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Code.org Documentary Serving Multiple Agendas?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @10:20AM (#43223499)

    The near excessive use of hypertext in this article is precisely how HTML was envisioned to be.

    It's beautiful. /sniff

    • by cod3r_ (2031620)
      tl;dr
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bigwheel (2238516)

        Aw come on! So, the OP provided a lot of links and citations. This is supposed to be a good thing. If the underlines on the text are too difficult for you, then change your browser options.

        • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @12:23PM (#43224719)

          Aw come on! So, the OP provided a lot of links and citations.

          But at the expense of clarity. I have read it twice, and I still don't understand what he is trying to say. Does a discussion about education really need a link to the dialog of a movie about the mafia? Many of the other links are just as pointless.

          • by davydagger (2566757) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @03:15PM (#43226559)
            the point is pretty clear.

            code.org is run by microsoft to promote microsoft products to little kids with government money, and to make sure kids grow up with microsoft approved coding habbits and ideas about programming, before they find alterantives.

            They are also trying to put a postive spin on outsourcing tech jobs to foriegners who already grew up exlcusively with the technology they gave them, to replace westerners who demand more money, and think independantly.

            This is all helped by a whole host of corporate artists, celebrities, and other proffesional astro-turfers.
            • by Zalbik (308903) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @06:51PM (#43229061)

              WTF? I'm gonna assume this was intended to be funny, but it's sitting at +3 Interesting

              1) Code.org is not run by microsoft. It's a non-profit founded by Hadi Partovi [crunchbase.com]

              2) Code.org doesn't promote microsoft coding habits. I can't actually find any microsoft languages on their site.

              3) I'm not cetain who "they" refers to in the 3rd sentence, but Code.org doesn't have anything to say about outsourcing tech jobs. If it's referring to Microsoft, then Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Cisco and Intel also signed the letter [scribd.com] requesting an overhaul of the tech visa system

              4) westerners who...think independently. Yep, that's some pretty "independent" thinking thinking you've got going there. It's so independent, it may form it's own little country with a flag and national anthem.

              5) This is all helped by a whole host of corporate artists, celebrities, and other proffesional astro-turfers. Huh?

              Sadly, as bat-sh-t crazy as your description was...it still made more sense than the article.

    • But every link contained in the summary is supporting an important piece of the argument. I'll reply to your sarcasm with a detailed point by point rebuttal as soon as I've vetted each and every source article linked in the summary. (Insert sound of crickets chirping...)
    • by QilessQi (2044624) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @11:48AM (#43224443)

      I... don't know where... to click... first...

      (keels over)

    • The near excessive use of hypertext in this article is precisely how HTML was envisioned to be.

      It's beautiful. /sniff

      Sir Tim thanks you, but says it would be even better if you threw him another 200 kilo-quid, like HM Liz2 did.

  • In English (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @10:24AM (#43223557)

    Can you translate this to English, Spanish, American or some language humans speak? I'm pretty sure it's valid HTML, but WTF?

  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @10:26AM (#43223575)

    i have a kid in a NYC public school. one of the best elementary schools in the city. i also talk to people who have kids in other schools or work in other schools.

    the curriculum is the same. the kids are not.
    in my school the kindergarten kids at a minimum know the alphabet on the first day of kindergarten. most of the kids in my son's class already know how to read simple books when they come in to kindergarten. by the end of kindergarten all the kids in my son's school are expected to read Scholastic Level F books
    i have talked to people and there are first graders in some schools who don't know the alphabet.

    if you want smart kids, make them smart. some days my five year old only watches documentaries on netflix and no cartoons.

    • by dinfinity (2300094) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @10:31AM (#43223627)

      Do they teach proper capitalization in your son's kindergarten?

      • Just because the Son is going to a great school doesn't mean the Parent did. His inability to use capitalization may be the driving force behind putting his kid in a good school.

        I agree with what he's saying though... you need to encourage your kid to do things that stimulate the brain. Reading is the time-honored classic but is from from the only mentally stimulating activity that kids might enjoy.

    • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @10:35AM (#43223663) Journal

      yep.

      I went through several different public schools (family moved a lot). I found that the brightness of the students, and reputation/"quality" of the school, had more to do with their parents than the school. Some areas had demographics where the students were taught by their parents they couldn't expect to do more than flip burgers at McGhetto, or if they were lucky, become managers. Other schools, with similar quality teaching, had parents who taught their kids that they could make something of their life, with an education.

      The thing about private/charter schools is that they require an effort to join them - that right there makes them self-selecting against bad parents. Not always, I have some friends that went to a mediocre charter school, that didn't teach evolution (which is the sole reason why some parents sent them there, not for concerns about other aspects of quality of education), and others who went to some of the better charter schools (they do teach evolution, or at least didn't put a point on avoiding it).

      Yep, anecdotal, but there seem to be a lot of others that have noticed this. The problem isn't the schools, it's the parents.

      • ... some areas had demographics where the students were taught by their parents they couldn't expect to do more than flip burgers at McGhetto, or if they were lucky, become managers. Other schools, with similar quality teaching, had parents who taught their kids that they could make something of their life, with an education.

        I tell my kids the latter, but is it lying if you tell them something that only used to be true?

    • by delt0r (999393) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @10:41AM (#43223763)
      You know i couldn't read or write in kindergarten. I learnt that from 5 in primary school. I was top in high school and am now a scientist. Seriously what difference does it make to a bloody 5 year old? So you can teach em calculus at 6?
      • by tibit (1762298)

        Agreed! My Mom always says that nobody will fucking care if you put it on the resume that you were walking when you turned 10 months old, talking in full sentences by 15th month, and reading before you turned three. I have some fairly prodigious friends who were early readers. They are extremely good in their fields but are somewhat mediocre parents, for example -- we always feel a bit sorry for their kid when they visit. Their jobs are in humanities so the pay isn't all that great, but at least they seem t

      • My two cousins, raised by an aunt who didn't prioritize education, couldn't read at that age either. One is an A student in college, the other was a C student but he at least made it through a 1 year motorcycle mechanic curriculum. I don't have any stats on early reading, but I don't imagine it matters much after a few years (assuming that you're getting a good education).

        • There was a study done about reading skills in later grades in various European countries. This is complicated somewhat by the variety of languages involved, but Norway came out on top, and AFAIK Norwegian is not much different from other Germanic languages. The interesting part is that in Norway they don't even start teaching reading until kids are 7 - later than any of the other countries.

          Sometimes I think this whole "my kid learned to read at 4" stuff is like making a seal balance a ball on the end of

    • by real gumby (11516)

      Your example shows how hard it is to figure out what works and what doesn't.

      Here's a "counter"example (I say "counter" in that that doesn't invalidate yours): my kid went through the German system. German schools rank much higher than US schools on the PISA international comparison. Vorschule (in the US, called kindergarden) was still devoted to playing, socialising, napping etc. His class was not expected to even learn the alphabet until the first day of the first grade. But by the end of the calendar

      • Vorschule (in the US, called kindergarden)

        Kindergarten (German for "child's garden") isn't called kindergarten in Germany? I love it!

        still devoted to playing, socialising, napping etc. His class was not expected to even learn the alphabet until the first day of the first grade.

        Same as when I went to school in the US - I majored in story time and eating paste. Yet we're told that US schools have gone downhill since then. This "teach 'em calculus in kindergarten" thing is designed to make it look like schools are improving, not to actually improve education. Frankly a lot of grade school, and even later grades, are filled with make work to keep the kids busy and appear industrious. I think th

        • by real gumby (11516)

          Kindergarten (German for "child's garden") isn't called kindergarten in Germany? I love it!

          In Germany, "Kindergarten" refers to what is known as nursery school or preschool in the USA. "Vorschule" is literally "pre school" or "preceeds school" as the first day of the first grade is celebrated as the kid's first day of school.

          Interestingly I just read that it was german immigrants to the east coast who introduced the idea of institutionalised learning before 1st grade to US schooling, back in the progressive era (early 20th century).

          Frankly a lot of grade school, and even later grades, are filled with make work to keep the kids busy and appear industrious

          Yeah, I'm amused when educators and politicians proclaim that cu

    • some days my five year old only watches documentaries on netflix and no cartoons.

      sound familiar all i watched as a little kid was bill nye the science guy and batman

    • It is the parents that are not the same. Most days my kid watches no TV at all. Most days I actually take the time to do something with him that makes him think. Most of the kids start out pretty much the same. It is the values given to them by the parents that make the difference. If their parents value education then they will probably eventually do so themselves. I send my kid to private school. It is primarily because of the parents. If there is a disruptive kid in the class you can be assured that with
  • messy... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @10:26AM (#43223581)

    What a crapton of links in an article.... i have no idea what the point was either.

    i guess i'll just go with the standard WE HATE MICROSOFT.

  • by bpechter (2885) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @10:30AM (#43223611)

    How could anyone find it surprising that a corporation is promoting use of it's own products. Please. Actually, Microsoft's got a couple of good products that I've used and been happy with. One's Microsoft Lync which we use at work to do messaging, desktop sharing etc. I just wished there was a linux client for the thing. It would make my life much better.

    I'm Linux/Unix guy for a living but I do admit Microsoft makes some reasonable products. I wish the corporate lock-in was not as bad as it is and I wish they published docs documenting all their file formats for interoperability. They have made some strides in the last couple of years.

    • "How could anyone find it surprising that a corporation is promoting use of it's own products."

      I was unaware that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation develops software. How does their OS stack up against Windows?

  • Lots of words, so the point is what exactly? That people that know each other usually work together? what's your point?
  • by markhahn (122033) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @10:35AM (#43223665)

    it's up to us.

    we're the ones who will provide the protocols that would permit the sorts of activities mentioned here to take place in a non-proprietary manner. sure, companies like microsoft seek to dominate their markets, and view lock-in one of the available tools. that's because we let them. we as a society have set up companies to be driven entirely by profit, and have not arranged our legal system to distinguish between proprietary and open systems.

    look at tcp/ip, the single most successful open standard in the universe. it didn't just spring fully formed and without peers - there was lots of competition. it won because a few of the companies (and educational institutions and even government) found ways to make it into a world-scale protocol. companies get it if you say "interop is a non-negotiable precondition to purchase". government rightly gets involved not only as significant sales targets themselves, but also when they say (or should), that any utility-type monopolies granted must conform to non-proprietary standards.

    imagine if mobile data service was non-proprietary: your phone simply negotiated a 5 minute service contract with the set of carriers it could detect at the moment, wherever you happen to be. (voice and text would simply layer over data, of course.) yes, that sort of thing is obvious to any techie as The Right Way, but it's our fault that the public has gone along the proprietary route: we need to speak up.

    business tries to get away with whatever it can - that's just economic darwinism. we just need to set the rules.

    • imagine if mobile data service was non-proprietary: your phone simply negotiated a 5 minute service contract with the set of carriers it could detect at the moment, wherever you happen to be. (voice and text would simply layer over data, of course.) yes, that sort of thing is obvious to any techie as The Right Way, but it's our fault that the public has gone along the proprietary route: we need to speak up.

      There's precedence for this. Imagine that every broadcast system, AM, FM and TV used it's own frequencies and protocols. If you wanted to watch CBS you'd need a different TV from the one that watches ABC. Exclusive deals would be made, and some TVs could receive NBC, FOX and ABC, but some would only receive independents. That's what's happening with Internet TV right now. The thought is we're still in the shakeout phase, but once the great ideas bubble to the top, everything will work. But with excl

  • Just lay out your accusations directly so we can see if they're merited by the evidence. The last part of the summary seems to kind of get to the point by implying that MS's contribution and involvement with these recent PSA causes were a way to market their products. Can we get some clarification?

    It seems to me that people with strong opinions will tend to do things that are consistent with those opinions. People whose opinions differ might see that consistency of action over time as an organized conspirac

    • by Looker_Device (2857489) * on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @10:50AM (#43223857)

      He's saying that a lot of this "U.S. schools are awful, just awful" stuff is propaganda, funded by U.S. tech firms in an effort to import more H1B-visa indentured servants to save money.

    • by Pope (17780) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @11:29AM (#43224237)

      "US schools are awful" is mostly being said by people who have friends investing or running charter schools. Follow the money.

  • Innovative my ass (Score:4, Insightful)

    by misanthropic.mofo (1891554) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @10:46AM (#43223821) Homepage

    Innovative teaching, at least according to Microsoft's rules, 'must include the use of one or more Microsoft technologies.'

    This is no surprise, whether it's a requirement of theirs or not, it sure seems to be standard practice. It causes big problems though, people running the program, like those in charge of the department of computer science at my school, come to push MS products for everything and pigeon hole students into the MS technologies. It's amazing just how many students there are that have used MS all their lives, but are still inept at using even the Windows command line, FSM forbid that you present them with anything else. Innovative teaching of technology in grade school - university should involve a variety of technologies and platforms, especially in secondary education.

    • by tibit (1762298)

      Back in high school it was MS DOS, Novell Netware and Borland Pascal. These days it may well be MS Windows, MS CIFS/SMB, and MS Visual Studio. The consolidation of power is a bit scary, that's true.

  • The kids in the public education system might turn out to be pretty decent Jeopardy players; that is, if they don't forget everything they 'learned' a year after graduating from high school...

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @11:09AM (#43224085)

    available to work for $20,000 per year.

    Sure the H1B's are making similar salaries but the thousands of programmers they interface with overseas are making $15,000 per year.

    The good news?

    Inflation is running over 25%.

    I understand and agree that brilliant genius level programmers are rare and there won't be enough available in the U.S. But that's not a matter of schooling and training.

    I worked directly with Infosys programmers from 2000-2013. In 2003, they were mostly masters degree candidates working in bachelor degree jobs. Today, they are mostly sub bachelor's degree candidates working in bachelor's degree jobs. The good 2003 programmers are all managers and executives now in infosys for the most part.

    That level of programmer is available in the U.S.

    The challenge is this: It is bloody hard to hire people. We spent 16 interviews over 5 months to get 2 positions filled. A company dedicated to IT can turn "on" 2 programmers almost instantly and it can also turn them "off" almost instantly (with no unemployment benefits). So a company like Infosys is like electric or gas or any other utility.

    The problem being that infosys discriminates terribly. One hint, they require your high school graduation date on your resume. And that's just the start.

    • by BonThomme (239873)

      brilliant genius level CEOs are also rare, but that doesn't stop the morons from getting ridiculous salaries and severance (HP, I'm looking at you)

  • It seems they've been complaining about 'the dearth' for long enough now that if they were actually serious about solving the problem, those who were in pre-school when the complaining started would have Bachelor and Master degrees in CS by now...

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @11:42AM (#43224377)

    They've been operating on a shoestring budget since as long as I can remember. Shit wages make for shit teachers. Stop paying Administration with 6-digit salaries and distribute the difference among the staff and things will improve. Gates is a two-faced jackwagon blaming a systematically hamstrug public educational system that all his buddies want privatized.

    Oh, and the reason Corporations go overseas for outsourcing is the H1B visa money, not talent. They couldn't give two shits about talent as long as someone is there to answer the support line.

    • Regardless of any budget problems, throwing more money at schools isn't going to fix the problem of useless standardized tests that test only for rote memorization. And that's just one problem.

    • You stop paying these administrators 6-digit salaries and you get 5-digit quality administrators.

  • There is so much wrong with this summary, I don't even know where to begin:
    - Did the poster just learn about hyperlinks? The posting looks like the time my 3 year old got into my wife's makeup
    - Did we need hyperlinks to items like Don Careleone's quote? The venue of the Partner's in learning conference? A picture of James Ewing standing in front of a trifold?
    - ti;dr; too incoherent, didn't read. The posting seems to be a bunch of ramblings attempting to draw connections between the Gates foundation,

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