The pushback begins: Who benefits from the push to teach every kid to code?

January 26, 2018 at 7:00 am 6 comments

The pushback was inevitable.  Slate published a piece in December, “Who Benefits From the Push to Teach Every Kid to Code?” The article provides an answer in the subtitle, “Tech companies, for one.”

The article is more history lesson than explicit argument that the driver behind the current effort to promote computing is simply for Tech companies to bolster their bottom line.  It’s still an interesting piece and worth reading.

For some tech companies, this is an explicit goal. In 2016, Oracle and Micron Technology helped write a state education bill in Idaho that read, “It is essential that efforts to increase computer science instruction, kindergarten through career, be driven by the needs of industry and be developed in partnership with industry.” While two lawmakers objected to the corporate influence on the bill, it passed with an overwhelming majority.

Some critics argue that the goal of the coding push is to massively increase the number of programmers on the market, depressing wages and bolstering tech companies’ profit margins. Though there is no concrete evidence to support this claim, the fact remains that only half of college students who majored in science, technology, engineering, or math-related subjects get jobs in their field after graduation. That certainly casts doubt on the idea that there is a “skills gap“ between workers’ abilities and employers’ needs. Concerns about these disparities have helped justify investment in tech education over the past 20 years.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Raul Miller  |  January 26, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Related: who benefits from teaching every child to read?

    Reply
  • 2. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  January 26, 2018 at 11:45 am

    Many (most?) of the STEM majors who didn’t get jobs in their field were in the life sciences, which have been over-producing for their job market for decades. It could happen to CS also—the CS employment and enrollment in college has been a roller coaster ride with higher standard deviation/mean than almost any other field.

    Reply
  • 3. Guy  |  January 27, 2018 at 11:17 am

    So LAUSD spent $1.3B for iPads for every student, project fails, Apple refunds $6.4M… that’s .5% which is a trivial penalty. I just googled and found that there are 640,000 students in the LAUSD which means the refund was $10 an iPad. Apple still made a lot of money.

    Another story that’s laughable is back when Microsoft was trying to settle their antitrust case. They initially offered to donate software to schools. Think about it; Apple was the predominant player in K12 at the time so Microsoft would be gaining market share and giving away software which costs them almost nothing. Apple objected and made sure this did not happen.

    Tech companies definitely know there is a lot of money in the K12 market in addition to being a source for a larger employee pool.

    Reply
    • 4. Alfred Thompson  |  January 29, 2018 at 8:29 pm

      People complain when companies give away software to schools and they complain when the charge schools money for software. It’s a no win game.

      Reply
  • 5. Alfred Thompson  |  January 29, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    I’ve spent some time working for companies (at least three of them) who sold technology to schools so I may have a bit of a bias in that regards. Generally though promoting CS education, unlike Apple promoting tech use widely, is about the whole eco system. It’s not that Microsoft, for example, is looking to get more people to hire. They and Google and Facebook and other huge companies will always have their pick of the best and be able and willing to pay for them. It is about there being people for their customers and their ISVs and anyone else who might use their products to have a source of people to hire. But it is more than that. It is about other people in other fields being able to understand what computers can and can not do and to see the potential. Sure that benefits the companies but so does having people who can read, roads that trucks can drive over, and all of the other things that make society work.

    Reply
    • 6. David Young  |  January 30, 2018 at 9:20 pm

      Alfred,

      Even if the huge firms are able to pay for the best, they seem unwilling. Adobe, Apple, Google, and Intel were ordered in 2015 to pay $415 million for conspiring to suppress wages:

      http://fortune.com/2015/09/03/koh-anti-poach-order/

      The big IT firms seem to understand that one way to keep your payroll costs down is to hire mainly young people. The median age of a Google worker is 29, more than 10 years younger than the average for programmers and for U.S. workers generally.
      A recent lawsuit alleges age discrimination:

      https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2017/08/01/google-age-discrimination-lawsuit-class-action.html

      Setting aside the possibility of blatant discrimination, consider that the culture and conditions at some of these companies seems to be calibrated for workers who lack the life experience and self-knowledge to realize that their employment contract is odious, the open-plan office and 60-hour work week are neither productive nor healthy, and snacks are not a job benefit that deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as paid vacation or health insurance. It suits those companies very well to have a growing supply of young workers. They will lobby for education initiatives that promise to increase the supply.

      Dave

      Reply

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