Should computer programming be mandatory for students?

Core computer literacy will be essential in the global job market, so maybe it's time to start looking at programming as a baseline skill and not as a differentiator

If Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the State Board of Education have their way, soon every California student will have to pass an algebra test to graduate from the eighth grade.

Mind you, they aren't likely to have their way. The new mandate already faces a lawsuit filed by the California School Boards Association and the Association of California School Administrators, alleging that the decision was made without giving educators a proper chance to weigh in. Opponents of the plan claim it will force already-underperforming students into subjects for which they are not prepared.

Even if we don't agree with the Board of Education's methods, however, its sentiments are sound. If the US is to remain competitive in the 21st century, American students need to be brought up to par with those in the rest of the world. Math and science education is crucial to closing that gap.

And as long as we're talking education reform, let me propose a further step. If modernizing education is the name of the game, maybe it's time we incorporated fundamental computer literacy into the curriculum of US public schools. If eighth graders should know algebra, by the tenth grade, they should be programming in Java.

Banishing the stigma

Is mandatory programming coursework putting the cart before the horse? I don't think so. It's time we shed some of the popular prejudices and misconceptions surrounding computer literacy, many of which are simply remnants of a bygone era.

When I was in school in the 1980s, movies like War Games and Tron popularized the image of the computer hacker as the inscrutable, impossibly intelligent outsider. Video games were cool, but if you actually made them, you were probably a socially-stunted nerd.

Meanwhile, the computers of the business world were refrigerator-sized boxes that hummed away in hermetically sealed laboratories, tended by teams of engineers in white coats. If that's what your kid wanted to do when he grew up, there wasn't much you could do as a parent but smile sheepishly, think of all the money he'd make, cross your fingers, and hope someone would marry him someday.

Today, all of that has changed. Look around you: What modern school-age kid doesn't have access to a PC -- and with it an e-mail address, IM accounts, a MySpace page, games, applications, and all the resources of the World Wide Web? Today our phones are digital, our cameras are digital, our music is digital, our DVD movies are digital, even our television is turning digital.

Computing devices are everywhere. But the one thing that hasn't changed is the idea that computer programming -- real, deep-down, core computer literacy -- is something for nerds, geeks, and outsiders. Guess what? It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags software developmenteducationjava

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Neil McAllister

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?