Obama: Computer Programming Education for Kids 'Makes Sense'
BY Julie Strickland
Could American high school students soon be studying a computer programming language alongside French or Spanish?
Graduate enrollment in computer science is up, but what about tech training for younger students?
In a Fireside Hangout on Google+ Thursday afternoon, President Obama spoke about the possibility of implementing a computer programming language requirement in American high schools. The statement was a response to a question from Limor Fried, an entrepreneur and engineer who is the CEO of robotics firm Adafruit Industries.
A modern incarnation of President Roosevelt’s historic fireside chats in the 1930s and 40s, yesterday’s Google+ chat included five different participants chosen by Google and was moderated by Steve Grove, Head of Community Partnerships at Google+.
“When I attended high school, I had to take a foreign language requirement,” Fried said to the president during the chat. “Can we make it a national effort to also add a computer programming language requirement?”
He responded enthusiastically: “I think it makes sense, I really do.”
President Obama went on to say that he is trying to work with high schools and school districts nationwide to make the high school experience relevant for young people, whether they are likely to pursue an advanced academic degree or not.
“I think that the concept of vocational education got a bad rap at a certain point, because the perception was that we’re tracking folks into blue-collar jobs and reserving white-collar jobs for a certain group,” President Obama said to Fried. “All those categories, I think, have eroded.”
The president went on to reference a dinner with Mark Zuckerberg, during which the Facebook founder said he taught himself programming primarily because he was interested in games. Giving high school students the opportunity to delve into such interests, President Obama said, but showing that it requires a knowledge of math and science, and making that training available in high school, “not only prepares young people who may choose not to go to a four-year college to be job-ready, but it also engages kids.”
“They feel like, ‘I get this, this is not just me sitting there slouching in the back of the room while somebody’s lecturing,’” he added.
President Obama did not give specifics about plans in the works to implement a computer programming language requirement in high schools, or a timeline for when or how that might happen.
“I think given how pervasive computers and the internet is now and how integral it is to our economy and how fascinated kids are with it, I want to make sure they know how to actually produce stuff using computers and not simply consume stuff,” President Obama said.
JULIE STRICKLAND covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurial endeavors of all kinds for Inc. Her work has been published in Brooklyn Based and City Limits in New York, the Free Times in Columbia, SC, Real Travel Magazine in London, and Daegu Pockets in South Korea. She lives in New York City. @Jules5168