Mind The Gap


Let's imagine we have a time machine and a laptop.  We set the time machine for the year 1900, rent a horse, ride it over to a nearby school, and give the laptop to one of the teachers.  Then we repeat the process enough times that, say, 1% of all schools have a laptop.  Assuming the teachers ever got the laptops to work, they would be at a ridiculous advantage over their peers. It's hard to wrap your head around how big the gulf would be, not just in terms of the classroom experience, but in terms of the types of young people that would emerge from those systems.  If such a thing had happened in 1900, we would probably have a different name for educational institutions that had computers, and likely a different title for those who graduated.  A completely different world of opportunity would be available to those kids, and they would face absolutely no competition from the 99%.

Well, guess what?  Our actual history has brought us to almost exactly the same point.

Computer programming is the agriculture of the 21st century.  It's a set of skills that's in limitless demand, and is an essential part of almost everything we do.  Knowing how to code is a huge competitive advantage even if you are never paid to write a line of code in your life.  It is teachable, from a very early age, and is as close to a guarantee of lifelong, decent-paying work as we have ever had.  It opens doors to business, the arts, science and entertainment.  Which is why we stopped making Spanish a mandatory course and replaced it with C+.

Wait.  We didn't?  Okay.  Which is why we stopped teaching Music and replaced it with C+.

No?  Phys Ed?  Latin?  Wait.  What are we doing?

I'm in favour of variety in education, but our stance on core and optional subjects has a bizarre hole in it.  Computer Science is the essential skill - it prepares everyone who takes it to stay housed and employed, it's fun, and it necessarily incorporates other key subjects.  It's hard to think of a game that doesn't employ math, science, languages and history, and it's easy to think of examples that engage users on these subjects more than a textbook.

So, with all due respect, I think I'm done with the argument that technology in schools is a nice-to-have.