One of the many problems the public education system is facing today is that it does not serve its purpose of supplying the economy with skilled workers anymore. It still prepares students for a world in which careers are found in manual jobs, not high tech or software engineering.
With the technology space in the broadest sense being probably the only space in which new jobs can be created in the coming decades a new hype is making the rounds in education: teach kids, better toddlers, how to code. This will solve all our problems, like MOOCs did.
Beginning of the year sarcasm aside, I don’t think that people get the right idea of what this technology industry led hype is all about. It’s not about providing kids with a better future, it’s about ensuring a pool of cheap workers in the next decade and beyond.
Right now people in the tech space have great careers and making a lot of money. That is what people have in the back of their minds when they think about coding and why it would be a great idea to teach it in schools. If every child learns how to code they are going to have great careers later on, right? Wrong.
While I agree that coding will help them to get a job in the first place, they won’t have the same perks like folks working for Google or Facebook today. Some people have made the valid point whether there actually is a talent shortage, but what it comes down to is the simple question of demand and supply. Today talented (and not so talented) coders can essentially pick who to work for which means the companies have to find ways to hire and retain talent. This leads to nice salaries, bonus packages and other perks.
You don’t have to be a visionary to envision what will happen the moment an entire generation enters the job market, knowing how to code like they know how to read, write, do basic math etc.
Tied to this latest hype is the push by tech companies for an immigration reform that would fill the “tech talent shortage” in the near term before the effect of growing local talent kicks in.
Again, I don’t doubt that knowing how to code or having a basic understanding of technology is going to be a crucial skill for the majority of jobs in the near future but what I really despise is the storytelling around this whole movement.
Of course, no one is saying that if kids learn how to code they will have great careers because Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates or Drew Houston know that this is not going to happen. But if you watch those promo videos you will get the notion that if only you could code you would have the chance to become the next Zuckerberg, Gates or Houston.
I am sorry if I have to pop another bubble but kids who will become the next tech prodigy don’t need programs like the Hour of Code. They will always find their own way as this is part of what makes them so great. Just like teaching children how to write correctly or algebra in school won’t turn every kid into the next Shakespeare or Einstein.
The Real Issue
The bottom line is that for Facebook, Google, Microsoft and all the others keyboards are the new Tin Lizzy assembly lines and they need skilled, cheap workers to fill them. Nothing less and surely nothing more. The moment coding becomes a basic skill like reading and writing the only thing that will give you an edge over your fellow working bees are either entrepreneurial skills or creativity, two aspects that the education system is ignoring completely. Maybe it is time to launch a campaign.