Jeff Atwood says “Learning to code is overrated” but means “We need good CS teachers”
I’ve written responses to comments like Atwood’s before. His perspective on “coding” is too limited, and he isn’t realizing that being a user and being a programmer is where most people will be (see the “fat line” blog post here). That “provide them plenty of structured opportunities to play with hardware and software” is a pretty good definition of one kind of “teaching kids ‘computer science.'” We need that. But the kids who only need opportunities to “play” in order to learn tend to be highly privileged (see the “rich boys” blog post here). Nobody wants kids to just “type in pedantic command words in a programming environment.” That’s a good definition of poor computing teaching. We need good teachers who know how to support a range of students with different kinds of scaffolding.
So what Atwood is really saying that we need good CS teaching. Yup, you need a lot of that in NYC — I agree.
If you want your kids to have a solid computer science education, encourage them to go build something cool. Not by typing in pedantic command words in a programming environment, but by learning just enough about how that peculiar little blocky world inside their computer works to discover what they and their friends can make with it together. We shouldn’t be teaching kids “computer science.” Instead, we should provide them plenty of structured opportunities to play with hardware and software. There’s a whole world waiting to be unlocked.