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Coding as a fundamental skill

I was reading a perspective that views the effort to teach kids coding as a "fetishization" of the subject. Naturally, I disagree.

Q: What's a pirate's favorite computer language? A: R of course, ye scurvy dog!

Coding is a fundamental skill on par with reading, writing, and arithmetic.

The person who knows how to code understands how computers and systems work at a level that the person on the sidelines can only dream of. The article views it is like learning the parts of a car without learning to drive. I say that most everyone learns to drive but only some understand what is happening inside when they press the gas pedal. And so when something unexpected happens during a drive they are better equipped to deal with the fallout.

It is the same thing with computers. Learning to code gives an appreciation for how all sorts of system work. Yes, the code of the future will be different from the code now, but forty years after I learned to code in LOGO and BASIC, I’m using much of the same basic knowledge when I code R and Python.

Like every child I learned to read with children’s books different in style and prose from the novels and papers that I read today. But they laid down a foundation that could be built upon in a myriad of ways. Coding is the same way. Not learn to code? You might as well say that there is no point in learning the alphabet of letters since in the end reading is just about words.

The person who codes knows what it means to follow instructions exactly, to break down a problem into component parts, to realize a goal and build something. In short, the coder is learning all the basic tasks of STEM, and preparing their mind for everything they need to do. In the 1970’s, I was one of the few kids that got to code, and it reinforced and magnified my skills in reading, writing, and mathematics.

I’m proud that the world is finally realizing that every child should have the opportunity to learn to code.


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