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Education Programming Software Politics

Non-Coders As the Face of the Learn-to-Code Movements 158

theodp writes "You wouldn't select Linus Torvalds to be the public face for the 'Year of Basketball.' So, why tap someone who doesn't code to be the face of 'The Year of Code'? Slate's Lily Hay Newman reports on the UK's Year of Code initiative to promote interest in programming and train teachers, which launched last week with a Director who freely admits that she doesn't know how to code. "I'm going to put my cards on the table," Lottie Dexter told Newsnight host Jeremy Paxman on national TV. I've committed this year to learning to over this year I'm going to see exactly what I can achieve. So who knows, I might be the next Zuckerberg." "You can always dream," quipped the curmudgeonly Paxman, who was also unimpressed with Dexter's argument that the national initiative could teach people to make virtual birthday cards, an example straight out of Mark Zuckerberg's Hour of Code playbook (coming soon to the UK). Back in the States, YouTube chief and Hour of Code headliner Susan Wojcicki — one of many non-coder spokespersons — can be seen on YouTube fumbling for words to answer a little girl's straightforward question, "What is one way you apply Computer Science to your job at Google?". While it's understandable that companies and tech leaders probably couldn't make CS education "an issue like climate change" (for better or worse) without embracing politicians and celebrities, it'd be nice if they'd at least showcase a few more real-life coders in their campaigns."
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Non-Coders As the Face of the Learn-to-Code Movements

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  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @04:47PM (#46204937)

    Of course I'm not.

    But seriously, am I the only one who doesn't give a shit?

    Look, don't code. Don't encourage your kids or students to code. It'll make those who do more valuable. Do mechanics worry about everyone on the planet knowing how to fix their car? Do carpenters spend countless hours navel-gazing about bringing carpentry to school children and girls and the average CEO? Do HVAC specialists?

    Do whatever the hell you want to do. The fewer who want to code, the better for the negotiating power and leverage of coders and technologists going into the future.

  • by Erich ( 151 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @04:52PM (#46204971) Homepage Journal
    Because being able to use logic to write instructions that are correct and unambiguous is a skill that everyone should learn. And basically that's what coding is.

    It's like literacy or numeracy or basic understanding of science. You have a problem as a culture if it is culturally acceptable to say "I can't do math" or "I can't understand written language" or "I have no idea about the universe around me or how people go about understanding it" or "I can't read or write logical directions."

    Do you expect everyone to be a best-selling novelist (or a writer that is enjoyed for all history?) No.

    Do you expect everyone to be the next Ramanujan? No.

    Do you expect everyone to be the next Knuth? No.

    But it is expected that everyone have basic skills in these kinds of things. It's just necessary to understand the world. If you don't understand these kinds of things -- if you don't have basic skills in language or mathematics or logic -- then you are at a disadvantage in modern society.

    I group computer science'logic here separate from Mathematics. Perhaps it shouldn't be. But having a population that doesn't understand things like this shuold be considered as problematic as a population that can not read and write.

  • problem solving (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @05:00PM (#46205027) Homepage Journal
    Is someone who does not know calculus unable to state the calculus might be beneficial to high school students? Is a parent who is illiterate not able to look on the work, see the value of reading and writing, and want that value for their kid.

    I would hate to live in the world that so many or /. readers seem to live, in which only people who know how to do something can do it, or where coding is a magic that must be protected from the masses. When I learned coding my parents did not know if it would good or bad because few people could do it, but in middle school I was sat down at a teletype machine for an hour a day to learn. I high school I sat down at a terminal and learned to code for real. This taught me problem solving, algebra, trigonometry, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I would haven't learned as well otherwise. Which is beside the point, as coding itself, like reading, writing, and maths has value

    I must also mention that I was fortunate because I had teachers who actually knew programming as work skill, one from IBM, so I was not learning it as wrote, but as craft. There were no tests to pass, other than being able to create a product.

    And really teaching to code is not that hard, at least if you are not worried about tests and objectives and things that generally ruin the educational environment. A few summers ago I taught a group of kids, 12-17 years old, how to make an online application in Python, using nothing but a terminal application and online account, creating one sub-domain for each student.

    So I don't care how is encouraging kids to code. i don't care if they are going to fail every test that comes out. All I would want to do is expose every student to a method of problems solving, let them go through some activities that doesn't involving copying code snippets to make a robot move, and allowing them to have some success and build confidence in them selves. Not a test, not a competition, not a game, just good old fashion legitimate problem solving.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2014 @05:05PM (#46205051)

    Coders, in general, aren't media personalities. Their appearance and mannerisms don't appeal to the masses. They especially tend not to be politicians. As such, it makes no sense to make them the public face of an effort intended to get the attention of a general audience.

    Coders would only inspire natural-born coders. To inspire people who have never thought about it before, you need people to whom they can relate...specifically, non-coders.

    This shines a light on how misguided the approach is. The goal of creating a significant increase in the labor-supply of eager-and-able coders will fail. Coders are very much born rather than made, and anyone who is "made" into a coder will leave the industry once they learn what conditions are really like.

    The only way to get talented-but-uninterested people interested is to offer them jobs that treat them well and pay them well. All else is bullshit.

  • by 14erCleaner ( 745600 ) <> on Sunday February 09, 2014 @05:28PM (#46205197) Homepage Journal
    Back around 1980, there were a zillion magazine and newspaper articles around about the shortage of programmers, and about how computer science was the highest-paying thing to go into. The result was a boom in CS enrollment, followed by a glut of incompetent entry-level programmers who really wanted to be rafting guides or something. Once the dust settled there was still somewhat of a shortage, and salaries remained high despite all the telephone-sanitizers who tried to become programmers.

    This all has a familiar feel to it.... What the big companies really want right now is cheap programmers, not more programmers. They're clearly hoping that increasing supply will lower their labor costs, whether it's by pushing the "year of code" or by increasing HB-1 visas.

  • by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @05:35PM (#46205225)

    Yeah, there is no such thing as a competent spokesperson who also knows how to write code. Because knowing how to talk to people and knowing how to program computers are mutually fucking exclusive. Basically, all coders are mentally deficient when it comes to interacting with other human beings. I'm sure that's exactly what non-coders fucking need to hear.

    Apparently, the campaign was doomed from the beginning.

  • Re:I disagree (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @05:46PM (#46205293)

    With all due respect, if the folks who made Beta had learned to code, then maybe the world would be a better place.

    Beta is not bad code. It is bad design.

  • by narcc ( 412956 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @06:33PM (#46205617) Journal

    Don't encourage your kids or students to code. It'll make those who do more valuable.

    There it is. Fear.

    It's the reason you hear nonsense like programming requires a "special mind" and should be reserved for a select few.

    It's pathetic. Writing code is easy. Ridiculously easy. Hell, back in the 80's it was common for kids under 10 to teach themselves how to program. Anyone can learn to write code -- and that terrifies some people.

    "Oh, but you need to be special to do it well" you cry, hands trembling, desperate to still believe that you're exceptional. All it takes to be a good programmer is practice. It's no different than any other skill. The more you work at it, the better you become. (Even the thickest trend-following, meme-repeating, slashdotter will improve eventually.)

    The fewer who want to code, the better for the negotiating power and leverage of coders and technologists going into the future.

    The world doesn't owe you a living. You can also improve your employment prospects by killing anyone better, better educated, and more experienced than you. It's just as stupid. It's much more sensible to diversify your skill-set. You might still be a trembling coward, but at least you won't be a one-trick pony.

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @06:37PM (#46205649) Journal

    Excess coders are not something I worry about. Why? Same reason performing musicians don't worry about little Timmy tooting on a recorder in 2nd grade. Odds are Timmy will get frustrated just like I did when I tried to play that damned thing. Even if Timmy has "talent", odds are he won't be able to make money at it. Even if he makes money at it, odds are it won't hurt the other players.

    I think coding is a lot like music in that regard. Fine, teach "coding appreciation" and have coding classes just like you have music appreciation and music classes. Most people will suck at it, only a few will make money, and of that subset only a few will be noteworthy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2014 @07:01PM (#46205865)

    You err on this, completely. Coding requires capability to abstract, think in abstract terms, reason logically, progress step by step in minute detail, while making sure it all fits together and makes sense in the grand scheme of things. All of that preferrably in your own head and with a high tolerance for frustration in expectation of little more positive feedback than the feeling that you have just created the f**ing best thing scince sliced bread, but who gives a damn.

  • by NapalmV ( 1934294 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @08:02PM (#46206285)
    When the hiring is done by an MBA who has an ingrained "go for the cheapest alternative" knee-jerk reflex, you should indeed be terrified.
  • by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @09:39PM (#46206841)

    Writing code is easy. Ridiculously easy.

    Um, right. It's so ridiculously easy that after decades of it, doing it even reasonably well is still a sought after and well-compensated skill.

    It's so ridiculously easy that people keep proposing these "teach everybody to code" things, and they don't work.

    It must be the Illuminati who keep it from working. Or those wascally wepubwicans.

    Hell, back in the 80's it was common for kids under 10 to teach themselves how to program.

    Um, I was around then. It wasn't "common" - it was only "common" among those who had aptitude for it. Like, you know, today.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker