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    It’s a bit of a non-sensical headline. He’s rebelling against the apparently mainstream idea that coding is the new literacy. That programming is really just problem solving and creativity with a specialized set of tools.

    I think he is oversimplifying it and building a straw man to knock down. I don’t have a problem teaching young kids how to code, because once you learn how to use the tools, the problem solving and creativity comes along for the ride anyway, at some point or another. Just like in cooking, woodworking, and any other kind engineering. Learn the tools, develop skills, solve problems, gain experience, rinse, repeat.

    Finally, I’m not teaching my kids how to code either, but they are learning it anyway because it’s a standard part of every curriculum these days.

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      Just like in cooking, woodworking, and any other kind engineering. Learn the tools, develop skills, solve problems, gain experience, rinse, repeat.

      That would be something I’d like to see, a movement to get kids to learn to cook, do woodworking, and in general, learn to build or create anything, not just code. But I fear that these might be perceived as dangerous classes as there might be fire or sharp object around :/

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        It doesn’t have to be a movement. There don’t have to be classes.

        It could just start in the home, with parents that listen to their children, help tune their interests, and help them develop as they grow older.

        Or, it could just start in the home, with parents doing what mind did: lock their children in their rooms for the whole day with absolutely nothing to do except take apart the bed, the windows, the clock-radio, and the door - so they learn how to put it all back together again before it’s discovered and the child/children are beaten/whipped for ‘destroying’ property.

        In both cases, the ‘right’ kind of child (and yes, you should cringe at the idea of a ‘right kind of child’) will survive/prevail: one that’s curious and not afraid to try new things (for fear of being punished or otherwise).

        Which brings me to my point - if there even is one: a lot of these “movements” and talk of bringing up the next generation seem to be without regard for the child - and really just seem to come from a bunch of adults that feel something needs to be done at large, without a clue or care about children as individuals.

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          Well education does shape society. If you teach a generation of kids that the only path to any kind of success is academic subjects, where any vocational subjects are seen as being for the stupid loser kids that are too dumb to do ‘real’ subjects, you end up with a generation of kids that all think they need to go to university and a shortage of plumbers. Ironically, going into trades like plumbing is really lucrative now (at least in New Zealand) because of that shortage, a much better choice than studying law or accounting. So I think it’s important to teach a bit of vocational stuff to every kid in school to allow them to see a variety of things. If I hadn’t had electronics classes in school I’d never have learnt it on my own. I remember having male classmates that thought that having to learn sewing was ‘dumb and for girls’ but then really enjoyed it.

          On an individual level, of course, you can’t just decide your kids will learn X, Y and Z but not A, B or C and be done with it. You can’t fall into the trap of trying to design your kids to be what you want them to be or what you always wish you were or whatever. I totally agree with you there: kids are people, individuals, with preferences and interests. You can influence those interests but you can’t just decide “I am going to teach you how to be a programmer” and be done with it.

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            Thanks for calling that bit about education out.

            When the word “movement,” was thrown out, I couldn’t separate it from the negative association I have with other “movements,” of yesteryear here in the United States.

            It honestly didn’t occur to me to associate that word with the public education system.

            That being said, I definitely credit the industrial design elective/course track at my high school for giving me a lot of direction when I started to consider college.

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          New Zealand perspective here: at least when I was intermediate school age (age 10-12, approximately 15 years ago, I guess, how time flies) it was compulsory for all intermediate school aged school pupils to attend ‘manual technology’ (they’re probably changed the name now) which was basically a term each of sewing, cooking, electronics and woodwork. Then once you’re in secondary school (high school) it all becomes elective but is still offered. Apparently this now includes stuff like 3D printing, which is pretty cool. As a male I don’t think I’d have ever learnt how to use a sewing machine if I hadn’t been required to do it through school. It was considered so important by our school system (15 years ago at least, but I don’t think it’s changed) that my very small primary school shipped off the 10-12 year olds to a nearby intermediate school to use their manual technology facilities.

          Of course there are risks associated with putting 11-year-olds in front of sewing machines or drill presses or whatever but they’re pretty small risks and part of life is learning how to work with things that are a bit dangerous. Nobody in any of my classes ever had worse than a minor hot glue gun burn or perhaps stuck themselves accidentally with a needle. Looking at the ‘safety in technology’ guidelines for NZ schools, there are various recommended minimum age groups for different technology e.g. microwaves are safe for any age group, ovens for roughly 7+ yo, overlockers for roughly 11+ yo, belt sanders roughly 15+ yo and circular saws aren’t considered appropriate for any age group. I think it’s just about being reasonable about risk. Putting a 7-year-old in front of an overlocker is very different to putting a 14-year-old in front of an overlocker.

          But to me I read ‘a movement to get kids to learn to cook, [etc.]’ and I think: maybe kids are actually learning this already but you just don’t know it, or perhaps NZ is weird and in the USA kids just learn to read, write and do maths and not much else? It’s hard to say. Education works very differently in different countries of course. I’m sure it varies drastically across the USA as well.

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            In Sweden, “slöjd” (woodworking, using textiles) is a required part of primary education (7-16 years).

            When I was a student many years ago, the “tough kids” turned baseball bats and used the metal shears to make shuriken (these were confiscated). As far as I know there have been no calls to restrict access to more dangerous tools for kids.

            “Hushållslära” (learning to cook a meal, do laundry, plan a household budget) is also part of the curriculum,

            Programming is part of secondary (high school level) education, but kids in primary school do discuss digital social media as part of social studies.

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              I have been meaning to learn how to sew. I have found myself wishing to I knew how to do it so many times

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                Just start by looking up how to fix something of yours that needs it. It’s not that hard.

                I’ve had a small tutorial from my mother when I was 8yo and another session when I sewn a medieval shirt for a LARP from scratch. That’s a little bit harder skill, where you need to know about materials, proper technique and some old inventions (e.g. to make back part of the shirt slightly longer so that the shirt does not choke you and so on).

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            I kind of love substituting other skills into the title.

            “I won’t teach my kids Spanish and neither should you.”

            “I won’t teach my kids how to drive and neither should you.”

            Comes off a bit silly.

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              Finally, I’m not teaching my kids how to code either, but they are learning it anyway because it’s a standard part of every curriculum these days.

              Is it really?

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                It is here in the UK. Scratch, then Python seems to be popular.

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                  Okay! I’ll have to check the situation in Sweden, but I don’t think it’s a regular subject here.

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              Maybe he would like to skip math and physics classes as well, and focus on “curiosity” instead? It’s all far cry from top level research after all.

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                This reminds me of a talk Simon Peyton Jones gave at TEDxExeter:

                So you might say “all right, so you convinced me reasonably that computer science is kind of interesting and maybe some kids should do it, but should every child do it from primary school?”

                So let me ask you this: why do we ask every child to learn science from primary school? Not because they’re all going to become physicists. So why?

                It’s because science teaches us something about the world around us, and that if we know nothing about the way the world around us works, we’re disempowered citizens. Even when you switch on the lights, you know that the light doesn’t happen by magic, it happens by electricity, that comes along wires, wires can be dangerous, the electricity comes from a power station, the power station burns fuel, it may cause global warming, all of that is underpinned by the science knowledge that you gained at school – whether or not you’re a scientist.

                And so I think it’s very important that every child knows something about the digital world that they inhabit, which as we heard in our previous talk infuses every aspect of our lives.

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                  I would even argue that programming is more valuable than “science” as it’s taught—at least in public schools in the U.S. as I experienced them—because a major part of understanding programming is understanding logic. The universal concepts of contradictions, implications, and givens can easily be taught with concrete demonstrations in programming. (Electronics would work, too, but in that case a lot of the concepts get lost in the “fiddly bits.” Did your circuit break because your logic was wrong, or did you wire a diode in the wrong way…?)

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                    (Electronics would work, too, but in that case a lot of the concepts get lost in the “fiddly bits.” Did your circuit break because your logic was wrong, or did you wire a diode in the wrong way…?)

                    Programming has fiddly bits too, like syntax errors.

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                      Absolutely! I guess I just find them more tractable than errors in circuits. At least you get an error message…

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                        I feel the same way, but I strongly suspect it’s because I’ve spent more hours of my life debugging the errors you encounter when writing software, than the errors you encounter when developing physical hardware.

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                  This reminds me of a Feynman story…


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                  I teach my kids how to code. A bit. Slowly. They have interest, and I feed their interest with bits that might keep their curiosity alive. Also might not. I don’t especially care if nothing comes of it. They’re building small silly games with Scratch, or play drag-and-drop coding games a bit. Conditionals, loops, that kind of stuff? It’s just an interest, in their myriads of interests, and it’s a bit fun too. Problem solving, maneuvering a computer, why not?

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                    Just because there’s a lot of people who don’t have a clue about how to teach coding to children, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. Pretty simple logic really.

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                      Unless you’re one of those people.

                      It’s pretty easy to put a kid off a subject they might have otherwise been interested in.

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                      The title is sadly a distraction from the real topic at hand: Teaching and learning. I don’t think the point is to avoid teaching kids skills. The point is to focus on encouraging a kid’s curiosity and teaching them how to learn. Code can be a part of that, yes, but so is baking cookies. I think we could all agree that learning syntax isn’t the key to a kid’s success, and that “learning to love learning” is much more important.

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                        I am not teaching my kids to code. But I never objected to them learning to code when they expressed an interest to do so. It is just that while I am good (and get paid) at teaching others to code, not family. Roles get mixed and it is not helping.

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                          That seems pretty strange to me. You’re good at teaching people to code, but you won’t teach your kids because of ‘mixed roles’? They’re your kids so it’s obviously your decision but from my perspective teaching your kids things is a huge part of parenting. Are you not going to teach your kids to cook either?

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                            Do I teach them Mathematics? Geography? Physics? No, I send them to school for that despite the fact that I am an EECS. I am a parent. My job is to parent them. Like most parents, I have outsourced their education to the school system of my country (I’ve no opinion on homeschooling; this is not something we do over here). And no, I did not teach them to cook, the Scouts did :) In our schools, it is very rare that a parent who is a teacher will also have their child in their class.

                            See also this thread, where an even better Python educator than me, said the same thing: failing to teach his own children. It is not strange, it is something that happens. Maybe you can keep a better distance while teaching and not parenting, but I cannot.


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                          Looks like I am the only one that agrees with the author.

                          Writing computer programs is a specific craft. Assuming everyone should be skilled at it, is a bit of stretch. We all have basic teaching of many different things in school: science, sports, literature, art, etc. But all those are introductory. It seems to be, the equivalent in internet era, would be some kind of computer literacy course. Knowing what a browser is, what an operative system is, binary representation, ascii and utf text and maybe a very little bit exposure to some kind of programming. Excel formulas maybe? I think this is already provided in most countries’ schools.

                          But more to the point of the author, I do think ‘coding’ is not the important part. Learning a syntax is a matter of hours for a seasoned programmer. Acing a programming language syntax is orthogonal to being a good programmer. I have had coworkers that in a week of exposure to a language, totally outperformed older colleagues with many years of experience. Because they had solid theoretical foundations and a more robust approach to problem solving and solution design, that you can’t get by memorizing hundreds of syntax rules so you can write a cryptic one line function with a dozen corner-cases.

                          The wording is part of the problem. ‘Coding’ is putting focus on the wrong aspect of problem solving. Why did we stop using the word ‘programming’? And it is misleading, it’s not always coding. If you can solve a problem with excel in 5 minutes, are you a worse hacker than those who immediately open their IDE and 3 hours later have a solution with 500 lines of code? I don’t think so. Programming languages are tools, very powerful tools, but they are still tools.

                          You don’t become a good architect by mastering technical drawing. A good architect would sketch down a masterpiece even on a napkin over a coffee.

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                            I agree with the conclusion at the end: inner curiosity of one of the greatest drivers for excellence in lots of things, true for coding too.

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                              I’m sorry for his kid. He’ll grow up with a father who has such a poor opinion of what he does for a living.

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                                Why? He actually expressed pretty healthy attitude.

                                Remember, many people feel pity for the kids of doctors or lawyers, who are pushed to join their parent’s profession.

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                                The author is free to do whatever he wants with his children, if he lives in a free country, but the authority with which he dictates what to do or not to do with other people’s kids makes no sense. Useless.

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                                  Isn’t that the case with all “and neither should you” articles, to me it already sends a negative predicament.

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                                    It’s clickbait. Tell people what to do and they’ll click.

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                                    This is a noop statment, nobody questions any of this.

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                                    “…Coding is like that. Try something. See if it works. Try again. If a problem was straightforward, it would be automated or at least solved with some open-source code….”

                                    To me this translates to “My job is hard and I work with complicated things. It’s much too much for kids”

                                    Ok, but what the heck does that have to do with coding? Are your kids going to be setting up cloud architectures anytime soon? Debugging some complex C++ code? Probably not.