Battling Code Illiteracy28 Aug 2013
I’ve been thinking a lot about this and it concerns me when I hear people talk about code as if it were some magical craft that only the smartest of the smart can understand and the rest of the population need only use the tools provided by these wonderkin.
I have a different take on programming, I feel that not being able to read and understand code is the digital equivalent today of not being able to read German at the creation of the printing press.
Think about it, before Gutenberg created his printing press you had generations of people who never knew how to read, and the reason? Well books took years to finish and only the most wealthy had access to them because of it.
Right around the time that Gutenberg started printing his Bible’s, there was a sudden shift in the paradigm, people that maybe could afford a copy took the time to learn the language and it opened up a world to them that their parents or grandparents had never dreamed about.
Reading took on a new importance as more people began to take it seriously, the ones that did would read things like the Adventures of Marco Polo and ideas would spring up never before imagined, one such man was Christopher Columbus.
Yet the majority of the population still remained illiterate, it would take a few centuries before people realized that reading was the most important lesson they could teach themselves or their children and by the American Revolutionary War a large part of the US population had read the Bible from front to cover even in some cases both in English and in Latin.
I believe we are at such an impasse with reading code and developing software, first only the richest of individuals could afford it, then the internet created a demand so high that those of us who took it seriously enough almost a decade ago are reaping the benefits today.
There is still a large part of the population though that still either doesn’t see it as important or believes it is much too complicated to learn at their stage in life, this was also the case in Gutenberg’s time as well as it relates to reading in general and we saw how well that went for those who refused to learn.
My point is, it doesn’t matter if your 10 years old or 60, learning to program I trully believe in the next two decades will become as an important a work skill as just using a computer or knowing how to use the internet is today.
We get so caught up in our day to day, in our general job descriptions and we use the internet without ever wanting or being able to understand anything about how it works or how to build something useful with it.
In conclusion, I always tell people to teach their kids to code and they love the idea, but I remind them that it’s not easy teaching or getting kids interested in something you yourself don’t know or understand. Only a literate parent can teach a kid to read a book, teaching a kid to code is no different.