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Perspective: Reading, writing, arithmetic, and code

Adi Goldstein

I have been teaching students to write code from the beginning of my academic career, and I positively love it. It’s extremely satisfying -- full of those eye-opening ah-ha moments, when all the elements come together and everything works just as it should. It’s empowering, as students see just how easy it is to take control of their digital tools and in the process demystify what had been a kind of magical object. And it is a valuable life-skill that applies to any major or career path. I could teach this stuff semester after semester, and I have.

But that is the problem. If the first time students have this experience is when they step into my undergraduate course, it’s already too late. These opportunities should have been available to them much earlier. How early? Elementary school. Many countries across the globe already have programs to integrate the teaching of code alongside the usual subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Unfortunately, the U.S. is lagging in this effort. While the rest of the world is preparing their children to respond to the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century, we appear to be doing little or nothing. What is needed is a national commitment to teaching code. Remaining code illiterate is no longer an option or a luxury we can afford. I definitely like introducing students to code, but I really should have been out of this business a long time ago. It’s time to put me out of a job.

Northern Illinois University professor and author