The short answer is no… But you didn’t come here for a short answer did you?

Long answer: The cool thing about growing up with people that are a tad older is that they expose you to the world you’ll inherit before you know you will. As a younger Chika, many of my older cousins were learning how to program and developing cool games on MS-DOS. Since we lived with them, I got to see first hand the process of locking yourself in a room and debugging or talking through a process you wanted to code. The experience got me super excited about coding because I wanted to make games and make the computer bend to my will. Yep, I had power complex as a child…but I digress.

Fast forward to my first programming class. I had the opportunity to take Visual Basic in high school as a sophomore. Visual Basic was a great introduction to programming. It was pretty easy to pick up and a lot of things you could do especially within excel. Learning how to program excel scripts was really helpful, especially with Algebra and Pre-calculus. I used Excel to check (and sometimes do) my homework. It was the perfect symbiotic relationship. It only works with a solid foundation in math, curiosity about how to do things easier, and a language to make easy happen. I later went on to learn C++ and python…. but it was never about learning how to program. There were real life problems I wanted to solve, and my curiosity drove the projects I did in class, and the extra work I did on my own.

Earlier this week, Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, called for national computer programming requirement in schools. Here’s more of what he said here. I disagree 110% (+/- 10%). By putting an emphasis on programming, you detract resources from the building blocks of being an effective programmer. I understand Mayor Emanuel’s thoughts…..We need to make our students competitive for 21st-century jobs. Okay, if we are serious about being competitive, let us create initiatives to take a great leap forward in math and English test scores or increase access to higher education for all.

We see that requirements don’t always yield results. Physical education is a requirement, but we still live in one of the most obese nations in the world. We have Reading, Math, Science requirements too. How do we fair when compared to the rest of the world?

I believe there’s a place to integrate programming into how students interact with already existing curriculum. I think that would be more interesting than requiring programming proficiency. It doesn’t have to be a binary conversation. Making programming a requirement in schools is the equivalent of making calculator proficiency a requirement. Programming is a tool, not the end all be all. Teach students why they need to use said tools and you’ll be surprised the lengths they’ll go to master them.

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