Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006
Photo 1

tynker.com

From tynker.com, a website that aims to teach children computer programming from a very young age. But is that actually a good idea?

Voices / Viewpoint

Kids don’t need to know how to code

This world needs more people who can qualify, and fewer people who do nothing but quantify

Gemma Seymour describes herself as “an N.Y.C.-born gen-X Filipina-American geolibertarian feminist Green orthocrat, a Stuyvesant alumna, and a proud social justice warrior” who “harbors a fervent wish for equality, liberty, and justice for all.”

Brattleboro

I have over 25 years of professional experience working with computer systems and communications networks. I founded the first 100-percent-broadband-end-user internet service provider in the nation in 1994. I’ve been on the internet since 1986. I got my first computer in 1982. I’ve been using computers since 1978.

I also loathe programming with a passion.

Teaching programming languages to young children is utterly useless, but you won’t realize this unless you already have a firm grasp of information systems technologies.

Teaching a child to write computer programs is not the same thing as teaching them human languages. Computers are not people. They don’t think. If you want your child to learn something, teach them a human language, like English.

Teach them woodworking, sewing, cooking, gardening, music, art, writing. Give them concrete, hands-on skills with which they can build real things.

Teach them bookkeeping, law, and philosophy. Teach them about other cultures. Teach them logic and critical thinking.

Teach them compassion for others, frugality, and forbearance. Teach them vulnerability.

Teach them how to think. Teach them how to be kind.

* * *

Forty years ago, if you wanted to use a computer, you had to know how to program one. Thirty years ago, if you wanted to get on the internet, you had to know how to build a network. Twenty years ago...you get the idea.

As a proportion of humanity, software programmers are a very small fraction. People do not need to know machining in order to drive an automobile. Why would anyone think that people need to know how to program in order to do jobs that have nothing to do with programming?

But more to the point: good software comes from people who have a firm grasp of the problems that actually need coding to be solved — not because they are programmers, but because they are experts in the field to which they are applying that software.

Computers are so frustrating precisely because the programs that control them are written by people who have little understanding of, or care for, how the rest of the world works.

* * *

The only useful programs are those that solve problems which haven’t already been solved. But there’s no way you will discover what problems haven’t already been solved unless you first become an expert in some field other than programming.

This world needs more people who can qualify, and fewer people who do nothing but quantify.

The world doesn’t need more technology. More technology is not going to rescue us from the technologies we already mismanage. None of the really important problems facing humanity can be solved by technology.

In fact, they can only be solved by non-technological means, because they are design problems, they are political problems, and they are moral problems.

Like what we do? Help us keep doing it!

We rely on the donations and financial support of our readers to help make The Commons available to all. Please join us today.

What do you think? Leave us a comment

Editor’s note: Our terms of service require you to use your real names. We will remove anonymous or pseudonymous comments that come to our attention. We rely on our readers’ personal integrity to stand behind what they say; please do not write anything to someone that you wouldn’t say to his or her face without your needing to wear a ski mask while saying it. Thanks for doing your part to make your responses forceful, thoughtful, provocative, and civil. We also consider your comments for the letters column in the print newspaper.

Add Comment

* Required information
1000
What is the opposite word of small?
Captcha Image
Powered by Commentics

Comments (5)

Sort By
 
 
 
Gravatar
New
Juan Ramón González Urquhart
Gravatar
3
0
0
Jan 2019
Juan Ramón González Urquhart (Bogota, Bogotá, Colombia)

I'm a systems engineer, but before that, I'm a professor. I have been teaching technology for more than 30 years and I am COMPLETELY IN AGREEMENT with you. Unfortunately the closed mind of technology training does not allow my colleagues to see that reality. In my country Colombia, there is currently an obsession with robotics and Arduino. It is more a competition to show results of the students than a real awareness to get them to learn. Maybe someday we can understand that not everyone will be programmers in the future ...

Gravatar
New
Juan Ramón González Urquhart
Gravatar
3
0
0
Jan 2019
Juan Ramón González Urquhart (Bogota, Bogotá, Colombia)

Hello

I'm a systems engineer, but before that, I'm a professor. I have been teaching technology for more than 30 years and I am COMPLETELY IN AGREEMENT with you. Unfortunately the closed mind of technology training does not allow my colleagues to see that reality. In my country Colombia, there is currently an obsession with robotics and Arduino. It is more a competition to show results of the students than a real awareness to get them to learn. Maybe one day we can understand that not everyone will be programmers in the future. That education needs children scouts of skills and teachers that allow them to enhance those that they like and need in their learning process, but not those that the teacher thinks. Music, art, sports should be as important in a curriculum as Mathematics, science or technology. Good thing that at the end I find someone who shares my humble opinion.

JUAN RAMON GONZALEZ URQUHART. Colombia.

Gravatar
New
Juan Ramón González Urquhart
Gravatar
3
0
0
Jan 2019
Juan Ramón González Urquhart (Bogota, Bogotá, Colombia)

Hello

I'm a systems engineer, but before that, I'm a professor. I have been teaching technology for more than 30 years and I am COMPLETELY IN AGREEMENT with you. Unfortunately the closed mind of technology training does not allow my colleagues to see that reality. In my country Colombia, there is currently an obsession with robotics and Arduino. It is more a competition to show results of the students than a real awareness to get them to learn. Maybe one day we can understand that not everyone will be programmers in the future. That education needs children scouts of skills and teachers that allow them to enhance those that they like and need in their learning process, but not those that the teacher thinks. Music, art, sports should be as important in a curriculum as Mathematics, science or technology. Good thing that at the end I find someone who shares my humble opinion.

JUAN RAMON GONZALEZ URQUHART. Colombia.

Gravatar
New
Martha Beltran de Galindo
Gravatar
1
0
0
Jan 2019
Martha Beltran de Galindo (Guatemala, Guatemala, Guatemala)

I agree about the importance to teach human languages, to be kind, to solve problems and teach them that technology is just a tool to solve a real problem in order to help others.

Gravatar
New
Martha Naranjo
Gravatar
1
0
0
Jan 2019
First Poster
Martha Naranjo (Guatemala)

Totally in agreement with the teaching of programming languages. I think the most useful thing for children is to teach them computational thinking, to solve problems, to structure the mind. Excellent article!!

 
Page 1 of 1
 
 
 

Originally published in The Commons issue #492 (Wednesday, January 9, 2019). This story appeared on page D1.

Related stories

More by Gemma Seymour