Dec 09

tired-child-programming

There is this new surge of effort going on to make Computer Programming a more popular choice for kids instead of the default ones that are out there (doctor, lawyer, police officer).  Part of the reason for this push seems to be our society’s rush to embrace tech, but the technicians (we nerdy, builder types) remaining a relative mystery to the world. This makes the philosophers of our time worried that little baby Steve Huffman’s are missing out on their programming goals due to being ignorant of the fact that there is no magical hamster inside of their computers.

“If we want America to stay on the cutting edge, we need young Americans like you to master the tools and technology that will change how we do just about everything”
– President Barack Obama

Now we have presidential backed efforts to put Computer Science into school. Issue out an “hour of code”, and let little Junior know that in our Intelligence Age, a girl or boy should strive to be the next Mark Zuckerberg rather than another golfing MD, teaching PhD or ambulance-chasing lawyer-type.

The Information Technology world is not one that rewards the mediocre.

Sure you can find a cushy state job and suckle on the Corporate teet for benefits as your career in computers, but to truly be one of the builders of the future, there has to be a hunger there to create and improve in an open source market. I love that children are being made to look at the little people behind their phone apps, video games, and Instagram accounts, but I wonder if this effort will yield an age of bad, mediocre programmers that only got into it because their dads told them to?

“I wonder if they are selling the kids on an illusion”

I want us to combine efforts, like introducing kids to Computer Programming with lessons in improving upon badly built models, developing answers to problems that people are stumbling over, and improving one’s craft for the love, over the love of money. Those are some of the things that make a Computer Programmer successful. It isn’t enough to just show up knowing some code while holding a degree for putting in the time. 

Many of you will argue that my assertions apply to any job but it isn’t true. Many of the more popular jobs that we hear kids echo when asked “what do you want to be when you grow up” are jobs that offer up similar salaries for the ambitious and the ones who settle. To think that Information Technology is the same, is to set yourself up for a very rude awakening. Many of the more successful giants in tech were not even College educated bourgees with certificates and Greek letters in tow. Many were just passionate kids who wanted to see something, didn’t see it out there, so they decided to build it. Some others just knew enough to improve greatly on a construct that was already out there… Social Media did not start with Facebook.

So when I see a push for a field that I have learned to love and embrace for it’s vicious competitiveness, I wonder if they are selling the kids on an illusion. Do they know, like I know, that they will be in competition with really passionate people who “code” as easily as they draw breath? Do they show these kids that “coding” goes beyond knowing a few languages and doing what the boss instructs them to? I am not so optimistic.

When I was young, the people who coded were the nerds who loved their computers so much that playing the games was not enough… they wanted to know what made it tick. This has always made it a labor of love that could yield astronomical figures. With a push for any kid to program, I cannot imagine that the level of interest for programming will be the same as it was when only those who sought to know… learned.

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  • Stella-Vega

    I have a different slant on this push to get people to code. I think it’s not a good idea if it succeeds. This will flood the market with bad code. Now this will create more work for professionals like me who
    have to inevitably clean up someone elses
    digital mess that they leave behind–so maybe that’s one positive? This will further commoditize the industry and drive wages down as more
    people come into the profession Do you want that?

    I say encourage kids to do what they naturally gravitate to. What I would REALLY like to see is for the industry to mature to the point
    where professionals keep a regularly updated certification and license to work in the profession. Much like some medical or technician jobs
    have to. This would reduce the quantity of bad code and keep people in the profession who really want to do it.

    Just a professional programmer’s opinion without a ton of research.

  • William

    It will dilute market that is already diluted. IT is not the frontier like people think it is. The element of “grandeur” has now become applying IT to specific industries.

    I was looking to get my son into coding, but not for the sake of being a programmer, but for the sake developing a passion for him. He loves video games, so getting him started to create them will help him decide if he will like it, and not be like the majority of this country who sells themselves short with illusions of grandeur before they even start
    understanding what it takes to pursue a dream.

    The issue is that Americans have taken the ingenuity of the 40s-80s, and twisted the aspects of ingenuity to shortcuts & laziness.

    If you want to succeed, you will because you make decisions that will get you there. Not talk shit, and continue to be a pawn in someone’s castle without working towards a goal.