The UK Government is trying to figure out how to teach children to code by changing what is taught in schools. The Telegraph, a leading UK newspaper, has put the other side of the case - Coding is for "exceptionally dull weirdo(s)"
The recent blog post by Willard Foxton is an amazing insight into the world of the non-programming mind. His byline says:
"Willard Foxton is an investigative journalist & television producer. He writes on skulduggery wherever he finds it, especially in the world of technology."
It isn't clear what sort of skulduggery is present in learning to program, but the blog post in question, all only possible because some programmers designed a system that presumably he just takes for granted, is titled:
The Government wants to teach all children how to code. Here's why it's a stupid idea
It basically outlines the opinion that programing is not only for the strange few it attracts, but it is a mechanical process. He relates the tale of a colleague who is looking to hire a programmer and comments:
"(he) is the perfect poster child for why our kids can’t code – he’s a normal person, rather than an exceptionally dull weirdo, like the bulk of developers."
He goes on to prove that he really doesn't know what programming is all about by saying:
"Coding is a niche, mechanical skill, a bit like plumbing or car repair."
So coding is a mechanical skill - I guess he must be thinking of copy typing.
"As a subject, it only appeals to a limited set of people – the aforementioned dull weirdos. There’s a reason most startup co-founders are “the charming ideas guy” paired with “the tech genius”. It’s because if you leave the tech genius on his own he’ll start muttering to himself."
Why is it I feel a bout of muttering coming on?
Towards the end of the article there are some choice words on the failure of ICT education which has some truth in it - it is a problem that needs to be solved by teaching deeper computing ideas. He also doubts that it is possible to teach primary school teachers enough coding to teach children, which again is a very valid concern but then he spoils it all by saying:
"If a school subject is to be taught to everyone, it needs to have a vital application in everyday life – and that’s just not true of coding."
Of course it all depends on what you mean by "vital application".
Algorithmic thinking is vital to our future prosperity, and perhaps even our survival. There are far too many illogical thoughts in the world and knowing how to get from an idea to an implementation is a key skill which is much more basic than being able to do arithmetic - which is what any cheap pocket calculator can do.
The article is reactionary and designed to get people annoyed and posting comments - just over 600 at the time of writing - but what is worrying is that the viewpoint will ring true with anyone dumb enough not to be able to see the bigger picture. The same attitude extends not just to programming but to all STEM subjects. The next step in the argument is - why teach physics, chemistry, biology and math (as distinct from arithmetic) to any but exceptionally dumb weirdos.