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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 code...so 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 Code.org 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 khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday February 09, 2014 @05:50PM (#46205325)

    Do mechanics worry about everyone on the planet knowing how to fix their car?

    Watch the Jeremy Paxman interview. It is hilarious. This isn't about mechanics telling other people to learn how their car works.

    This is people who can't tell a piston from a pylon that OTHER people need to learn to be a mechanic.

    The woman in that interview said that if she knew how to code then she could have saved money by doing her own graphics for her website (which she would also be building). Look up WordPress! HTML is "code" only in a very broad sense. And a year of learning JavaScript won't do much to teach you Apache/IIS administration.

    The problem here is that "code" is being used as a synonym for "computer magic".

    Learning more stuff usually does not hurt. Anyone who wants to learn to code should be encouraged to learn to code. Or to learn website administration. Or to learn graphic design. Or to learn to be a mechanic.

    But, as Jeremy Paxman pointed out, is it better to put the focus on code or should money be spent getting people to learn Mandarin Chinese?

  • by JackDW ( 904211 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @05:56PM (#46205371) Homepage

    But Zuckerberg and the other industry leaders don't want programming skills to be valuable. They want programmers to be cheap and easily replaced, like unskilled workers in a factory. The "year of code" is not for the benefit of school children, or programmers in general. It is for the benefit of the upper management of major corporations, who live in hope that good programmers will one day be cheap.

    Imagine that instead of the "year of code", it's the "year of football". The government notices that the England soccer team is not very good. The soccer industry finds that good players are really expensive, and wishes that it could recruit a few more good players straight out of school while they are cheap. They get together with this initiative called the "year of football", with the aim of (1) reducing the cost of employing good football players, and (2) improving the performance of the national team.

    The immediate result is a massive investment: a soccer coach for every school, extra soccer lessons, one football to be provided to each child and so on.

    But of course it achieves nothing, because the children who love playing football are already playing it in their spare time. The impact is only on the children who hate football and don't want to play it. They are forced to take part in this boring activity, developing skills they don't want in order to play a game that they don't enjoy. They come to hate football even more than before.

    And, because the children who love it are forced to play with children who hate it, this ruins the subject for everyone. They all hate having to learn about basic stuff like how to pass a ball and how to tell if someone is off side: the good players already know this, and the others don't care. Meanwhile the schools spend less time teaching general subjects that are widely useful. Everyone loses.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2014 @06:12PM (#46205467)

    Because being able to use logic to write instructions that are correct and unambiguous is a skill that everyone should learn.

    Coding isn't the only avenue for logical skills. There are off of the top of my head; philosophy, mathematical proofs, writing essays, writing cooking recipes, learning to play chess, and everything in basic sciences..

    There are other avenues for intelligent and creative people than coding and coding is a relatively easy skill to pick up. I am unconvinced that coding adds anymore to a kid's education than reading, writing, mathematics and science. And the way things are in the US, teaching basic science should be a MUCH higher priority than computer science; let alone coding. Maybe if we pushed more of the basic sciences, we'd have less ignorant asses like Ken Ham and less people falling for his "beliefs".

  • by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @06:37PM (#46205645)
    I learned almost entirely from books. I've no idea what Kernigan and Ritchie were like in front of a class -- I was in the wrong country to find out -- and for all I know they might have written The C Programming Language in their moms' basements. Ditto Knuth, ditto Booch, and so on. Sure, there's no reason for a programmer not to be a great presenter, but there's no reason they have to be for us to learn from them.
  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @06:52PM (#46205781) Journal
    Believe it or not, a lot of mechanics and carpenters are proud of their skills in the same way programmers are, they do indeed want the basics of nail hammering and tyre changing taught to all school children, and expend considerable effort toward that goal.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 09, 2014 @06:57PM (#46205833)

    While I prefer books, live explanation can be useful too.

    Internet gives you access to plenty of talks given by all kinds of people, and there are plenty of coders who held/hold a teachers job as well - they are pretty good at giving talks, usually. Check out Simon Peyton-Jones or Martin Odersky's talks, for example.

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