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Do you speak computer programming?

Hablas Español?

If you are a child in my son’s class the answer might be “un poco.”

Not a week goes by that I don’t hear a bit of Spanish emanate from my son’s lips.

“Pequeno” and “grande” are his favorite words. He repeats them over and over when we go to school each morning.

Other days he runs through the house reciting the colors of the rainbow. “Rojo” and “azul” are his favorites. But “verde” and “amarillo” receive play time, too.

When it comes to the numbers 1 through 10, Gibson is “perfecto.”

I have always heard that if you want to teach your child a second language, start teaching him when he’s young.

Gibson’s Pre-K 3 class is learning 65 basic Spanish words this year.

As much as I am a fan of teaching my child Spanish, especially in a country that is becoming increasingly Hispanic, there is another language I wish my son was learning.

If you asked most school children if they speak Python or Ruby, they might wonder if you are talking about something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

If you asked them if they can write PHP or Java, they more than likely will respond that they don’t do that stuff.

Back in my day when there were no such things as cellphones and iPads, learning Spanish, French and even Latin were an expected part of the curriculum. We may not have been learning them at 3-years old, but we knew at some point either Señor Gentry or Monsieur Latham were in our future.

But the computer programming languages Python, Ruby, PHP and Java had yet to be developed.

Yes, computers had been invented when I was in school; and no they weren’t comprised of big vacuum tubes and big spinning wheels of magnetic tape.

Thirty years later, computers are everywhere and used in almost every profession by almost everybody.

And yet, few schools in America include computer programming in their curriculums.

Why?

It is the same question that leaders in some of the country’s most prominent technology companies have been asking.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Google’s Susan Wolcicki are just four of the leaders who promote the organization code.org in an effort to increase the awareness of the need to teach computer programming.

If you look at the numbers, the statistics are pretty staggering and sobering. According to code.org, by 2020 the computer industry faces a situation where 1,000,000 more computer programming jobs will be available than computer science students graduating from college.

Computer science jobs are the second-highest paid college degree, yet companies are increasingly looking to countries like India and China for employees.

While countries like Estonia are teaching programming to children, computer instruction in U.S. high schools teach students how to make PowerPoint presentations.

Douglas Rushkoff, a leading media theorist, recently addressed congress on this issue. Rushkoff, who was ridiculed years ago for thinking that one day people would be able to send messages to each other over the telephone line, now sees the dangerous predicament the U.S. education system is in.

“Computer class can’t be about teaching kid’s to use today’s software; it must be about teaching kids how to make tomorrow’s software,” Rushkoff recently wrote.

If we can teach Spanish to 3-year-olds, why not computer programming?

 

Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.

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