When I was in grade school, I spent hundreds of hours of my life learning math, science, social studies and English. We did have a computer class that I had to take a few times in middle schooI (I hated it).
They wanted to teach me how to type professionally on a keyboard and navigate the interface of the windows operating system. In high school, I took one more computer class — drafting I think it was.
And, of course, I ended up taking CSCI 1100 here at ETSU, which is required. According to ETSU’s course catalog, the class teaches students the basics of “word-processing, spreadsheets, electronic communication, and online database searching.”
Personally, I have found these skills to be necessary for anyone looking to make their way in the world. We’re talking about the ability to use programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint and to know how email works. I can’t imagine that you would need much more than proficiency in those skills to meet the computer-based needs of the average job.
However, many parts of the world are pushing for greater education in technology. According to a 2015 article from PBS Newshour, Australian children will “begin coding at age 10 and computer programming at age 12”—this will be at the expense of geography and history. The age that children begin coding in the UK is even lower, at 5 years of age.
I can’t imagine someone expecting me to start coding that young. But then again, I didn’t get my first cell phone until later in my adolescence, and it was the kind with the little keyboard that slides out! Now we have young children becoming proficient in all sorts of technology.
There is also the problem of diversity in computer science. In an op-ed for the New York Times, tech entrepreneur Hadi Partovi makes the case for earlier computer science education in the United States. He says that the field, now the domain of mostly white men, could use some diversification.
The idea is that giving women and minorities an edge earlier on in their life will make them more competitive in the field and more interested in being tech-savvy.
A report from Georgia Tech’s College of Computing called “Detailed pass rates, race and gender for 2013” shows the demographics of high school students taking advanced placement tests for computer science. In 2013, “11 states had no Black students take the exam,” “8 states had no Hispanic students take the exam” and “No females took the exam in (3 states).” It’s worth noting that nobody took the exam in Wyoming, period.
A 2014 blog post on the official Google blog revealed the tech giant’s lack of diversity. The report showed that the percentage of black and Hispanic employees was 2 and 3 percent respectively; Asians fared much better, making up about a third. Men accounted for 70 percent of the workers. The upside is that this was a move by Google to increase transparency and work toward diversity.
Ultimately, I think our education system will have to move toward a greater focus on computer science education. I don’t think that the ability to code and program is a necessity for most jobs, but knowing how to do it opens a lot of windows for students.
The coming generation is going to be immersed in a world of science and technology, and that world should not just belong to white men. It would be foolish of me to enter the job market and not know how to use Word or PowerPoint; perhaps the same will be said about coding and programming in the near future.