As you may have seen fairly recently, there has been a Youtube video sweeping the web starring some big names such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and of course Will I Am (who managed to worm his way in there). All of whom are preaching the importance of teaching computer coding to kids in schools. The message is loud and clear, computer coding is the future, so teach the kids how to do it now. Which is fair enough, our world now revolves around computers so the argument that learning to read and write code will come in useful at some point in life holds a lot of strength. However the main selling point that the campaigners are attaching to this argument is that being able to code on a computer is a unique talent and is like “having a superpower,” as one of the superheroes states. Which to an extent at the moment it is. The working conditions that firms such as Google and Facebook establish for these specialist groups of coders are unbelievable. The chilled out environments where employees get free food and can slide from office to office is a massively appealing prospect for anyone. As the situation stands, many of these coders are like superheroes. But just wait a minute, if everyone is taught to code then it will no longer be the sought after specialist skill that it is today. Even if millions of jobs are created in this sector and the same amount of people are trained for these roles, where does this leave the campaigners claim that one of the main reasons to get into coding is that it is like having a new “superpower?
Of course I can see the logic in the argument that more kids need to be taught how to code. The world is rapidly becoming more and more digital by the day so it makes sense to say that more people need to be trained in order to work in these sectors. So teaching it in schools seems to be the perfect answer. I have no issue with the arguments regarding the benefits of knowing how to code because obviously it’s such a useful tool. However what is misleading is how the profession is presented. So much emphasis is put on the Facebook and Google experiences where the staff work in ideal working environments and make great amounts of money. Which is great, I’m sure most people who see their set up would love to work there. However what seems to have been overlooked is how this presentation of the coding industry as an exclusive and lucrative profession doesn’t align so neatly with the campaign to get coding taught in schools. The only reasons this industry has all these benefits at the moment is because so few people actually have the skills to actually be able to code. Therefore they are in high demand and these firms will do everything they can to attract them. Yet what nationwide teaching of the subject from an early age would do is make the skill of coding an everyday one, much like reading and writing. Coders would no longer be sought after on the level that they are now and the perks of being in the industry that are being so heavily attached to the campaign would become pretty much non existent.
If we take the profession of law as an example. The reason that lawyers earn so much money is because it takes many years to gain the skills required to fulfil the job role and only a few people have these skills. If for instance all kids were trained to become qualified law practitioners throughout their school lives, lawyers would no longer be able to demand so much money for their services as pretty much anyone could do their job. This is the danger that the coding sector faces. It’s all very well and good teaching kids to code so they can learn to be these elusive computer coders who slide down a fireman’s pole straight from breakfast to to their office chair, but the reality is the more people there are who can do a job the lower the rewards will be for them when they do it. So yes Mr Zuckerberg get your government to do something that will benefit the future of your countries workforce. Yes Mr Gates, make sure people know how useful a skill computer coding is in our digital age. But please don’t try to mislead us all. You know as well as I do that the coding profession won’t be all bean bag office chairs and barbecue lunches forever. The kid who thinks he is going to be the next Clark Kent with his newly discovered “Superpower” probably won’t be stopping trains, but designing the website for National Rail instead.