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We should be teaching our kids how to code. Or should we?

darrendube profile image darrendube Originally published at darrendube.com ・2 min read

The debate over whether children should be taught to code in school has been going on for quite a while now. One side says that coding is the new literacy, and everyone should know how to. The other side rejects this claim.

First of all, though the idea that coding will be beneficial to children is still under debate, I do not envisage it ever being at the same level as indispensable skills like reading or writing. Coding is not a skill needed by everyone. An actuary may benefit from knowing how to code, but a nurse wouldn't. Coding is beneficial only if it solves a problem. People should not learn how to code just because. Jeff Atwood said about this argument in an article of his:

It assumes that coding is the goal. Software developers tend to be software addicts who think their job is to write code. But it's not. Their job is to solve problems.

Some people say coding could make our kids get better at problem-solving. But so could chess. And maths. And sports. My point is that there are many other skills that would be beneficial to kids. Coding is a practical subject, and if schools started teaching it, they might probably take away all the practicalness from it and teach it just like every other subject.

We could instead introduce kids to code and get them to know how it looks like. Then it would be their choice to continue, either in a club or in their own time on platforms such as Codecademy and SoloLearn. Coding should not be forced on children in any way, as by doing so, we risk sucking the creativity out of it, the very skill we are trying to grow.

What do you think about teaching kids to code? Leave a comment below!

Discussion (30)

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kevinhickssw profile image
Kevin Hicks

I don't think it should be forced upon kids, but it should be more of an option, and kids should be exposed to it more. I wish I would have had the opportunity to start learning it even younger.

I plan to show it to my daughter as she gets older, and if she is interested, then start teaching her. I've also helped out at local events/meetups that teach kids to code, and it's clear most of them end up enjoying it and learning a lot from it, even if it was their first time coding. We often would see kids come back to future events.

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shaijut profile image
Shaiju T • Edited

What is the recommended age to start programming for kids ?

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kevinhickssw profile image
Kevin Hicks

That is a good question. I've kind of already started my 3 year old daughter on it, but she only has a little robot that she can push arrow buttons to program it to go in different directions. She has fun with it, but she doesn't quite understand that it's moving the way it does because of the buttons she presses.

At the meetups I went to, most of the kids were probably between 8-15. At that age group, most kids understood it. However, the 10+ up group seemed to have really grasped the concept of it, especially when using a drag and drop visual programming language.

I plan on introducing more complex toys and programming to my daughter as she gets older, but I don't expect to show her true computer programming until around 10 and instead stick to the little fun toys.

I started programming around when I was 8 or 9, but I'm not sure I would consider my start normal. I found reading programming books fun at a young age. It took until I was older to realize how boring they actually could be, even if they are extremely beneficial. πŸ˜„

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shaijut profile image
Shaiju T

Nice πŸ˜„, Thank you.

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hibahasan98 profile image
hibahasan98 • Edited

I used to teach kids programming last year, the average age was 9 years old.. most of them were having fun and just enjoying how the robot moves, but in fact few of them got the idea and enjoyed programming rather than playing with the robot. So in my opinion I think 10+ or even 11+ is the most suitable age to start teaching kids programming. P.S: I was teaching the kids using w drag-and-drop visual programming language along with an interactive and friendly robot that interacts the kids.

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shaijut profile image
Shaiju T

Nice πŸ˜„, Thank you.

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raupach profile image
raupach

Exactly. Exposure it is. A bit like music and religion. If you get in touch with it at a young age you might get an interest in it. Or not. Which is fine in its own right.

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jonrandy profile image
Jon Randy • Edited

Let them teach themselves through curiosity. I started age 7 back in 1983 with a ZX Spectrum and a printed BASIC manual.

Start the ball rolling - if they take to it, great! If not, they'll find their thing elsewhere

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cairnswm profile image
William Cairns

I think we should teach kids to code. Just like any subject at school it teaches them about the options available to them as a career.
I did biology at school. Does everyone need it no. I didn't go into a profession that needs it.
I did music at school, I've never used nor needed it.
Teach kids programming, not to learn to program, but for them to find out if that should be their career.
A new person started working with me yesterday. She discovered programming only after doing another degree. So she went back to learn computer science. If she had been exposed to programming earlier she would have started her career earlier

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190245 profile image
Dave

At the end of the day, coding is only useful if you're going to write code.

I've taught one of my 3 kids - he wanted me to write minecraft mods (or edit other people's to his desires), and I already spend more than enough time at a keyboard, so he can now do it himself, though he sometimes still struggles with the reverse engineering part of what he wants.

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aminmansuri profile image
hidden_dude

I don't know about this.
If students knew about algorithms and how to "code" early on. I think math instruction would be easier. After all, a lot of arithmetic and algebra is nothing more than learning algorithms. Except they do it by example instead of explicitly.

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ash_bergs profile image
Ash

I disagree with that, even if I went back to my previous profession of cooking at some point in the future, the problem-solving, and critical thinking I've learned from becoming a developer would go with me.

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190245 profile image
Dave

Problem solving, and critical thinking, can be taught without code though, can't they?

For example, most breakdown recovery agents can solve some problems better than I can.

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ash_bergs profile image
Ash

That's fair - I suppose I believe they just serve as a really really good way to teach those things, that can be accessible to everyone. Plus computers are such a big part of our lives, and we're so dependent on them as a species, having some grasp of how they speak to each other is important, even if it's just the basic principles.

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Chris Boles

I would say that kids should, at the very least, be "exposed" to code as the first step. The next step would be teaching the ones who show interest. How to implement that is another discussion.
I do wish basic computer skills were taught more in all schools.

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Aayush Gupta

In my opinion, one shouldn't just introduce kids to coding but also to the other fields. One should always make sure that their kid has explored all the options which he should and only after that have chosen to stick with one. So, the second point which you raised is my answer.

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httplucasreis profile image
http.lucasReis

today, I am 17 and I started my studies about programming 3 years ago, and I think if I started earlier I'd be better. However, it's my thought. Many teens have programming as a hobby, like me, but others not. I think is better to wait for their growth and themself to decide it.

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darrendube profile image
darrendube Author

Yeah, but I sort of think it's better when you teach yourself programming out of your own interest than if it's forced on you. If you had been forced to learn programming 3 years ago, it might have negatively affected your perception of it and interest in it. So, you never know, maybe starting it later was for the bestπŸ˜€

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httplucasreis profile image
http.lucasReis

Yeah, I agree with you. Life is so long. Better to start tomorrow than never start.

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ash_bergs profile image
Ash

I think exposing kids to code (and that doesn't have to mean a computer) is a great thing to do that should start early on!

At the end of the day all the codes mankind has built, from Claude Chappe to the Navajo Code Talkers to Kent C. Dodds have the same goal - to communicate, to speak a kind of language to get something done. We only help our kids when we give them different ways to speak.

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hmoshtagh profile image
Hamid Moshtagh

I don`t think kids nowadays would listen to the parents Any Ways!
Let alone learning form Them!!!!!!
I Had such tough time learning to code myself to help my daughter in her coding lessons; but she never listens to anything I have to say: Even on Rare occasions When I am POSITIVELY RIGHT!!!!!!

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094459 profile image
Ricardo Sueiras

I work in tech, but I also ran a school for a few years and I didn't teach them to code. There is plenty of good science/theory out there, but I have yet to read any compelling piece that shows coding at an early age helps. Teaching them core foundational skills such as curiosity, creativity, team work and collaboration is far more important in my view - coding can wait till later. Who know what the tech landscape will look like then....

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shaswatsingh19 profile image
Shaswat Singh

yeah Firstly school should provide a better curriculum not just like any subject as a student tends to reject if not properly taught.
Coding should be like a sport where not everyone is good at every sport some are good at baseball, some in soccer etc.
That's how if some student takes part in an are interested they should be guided to how to expand it further in life else there are a lot of fields too.

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lrn2prgrm profile image
J Armando Cordova • Edited

I am a software engineer myself with a preference on functional programming and category theory. I honestly think that math is where is at and not math in the sense of the traditional type of math we teach today in schools.
I honestly think that category theory should be taught at least from high school (and maybe some of the very basics in elementary school). Category theory is the only math that can help you as a problem solver in any area. It is an abstract math, which basically means that as long as you can put your problem as a category, you can start solving your problems dealing with the category. It doesn't matter if you are working with number theory, functional programing, boolean algebra, topoids, or networks, etc, etc.
Computers are good with fast calculations given a description of what to do, math today is about kids given different instructions that they have to perform like robots.
Category theory teaches them to think, solve problems, etc.
Once you have that it is easy to pick up a programming language and know what to do with data and functions, deal with abstractions, etc.
dev-to-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com/up...

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harshhhdev profile image
Harsh Singh

They should be told what coding is, and dip their feet in coding.

Forcing it upon them isn't the best way to go about it. In my opinion, at an early age, children should be taught what computers are, and how to use them.

Coding should also be, in my opinion, a class which is offered starting earlier in their school. Maybe when they're aged 13 or so.

In India, a lot of newer, junior coders are trying out coding, and I've seen this firsthand. There's a compulsory class as well, which gets their feet wet in coding.

It starts when they're in 6th grade. I believe that may be a bit early, or on time. Not 100% sure.

I will say, one of my greatest regrets of the current school system I have in America is that they don't get kids familiar with computers enough. They have the infrastructure, and they even gave out chromebooks to everyone. Yet, many people whom I've seen are veryyy behind. 50% of the class did not even know what copy paste was in 7th grade.

Coding shouldn't be forced on someone. We should however, at a healthy age, allow kids to get their feet wet in learning and introduce it as more of a fun thing rather than a punishment (such as Math)

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Kasey Speakman

I think it could make sense as lab days in an ordinary computer operation class. For example, in the sciences you do labs with experiments to better understand how the scientific process works. Using computers and technology is ubiquitous today. Most people are doing so all the time. So it makes sense for there to be classes about operating technology. And in the spirit of education, it would not hurt to have a couple of labs that dive into some light coding. Similar to how sciences do some light experiments.

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sittingdev profile image
SittingDev

I think a better option would be teaching critical thinking skills. That way they will be much better equipped to learn to code, or anything they decide they want to do later.

A lot of bold predictions have been made about tech and what people should be focusing on over the years. Most of the time these predictions end up wrong. The last thing we need is too much supply and not enough demand... Or wait... Isn't that exactly what the corporations want? Always ask who benefits. In most cases it isn't the pawn.

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lrn2prgrm profile image
J Armando Cordova

There is definitely a shortage of software engineers. But the field tends to be well paid across the globe and specially in America so it is kind of a win win scenario, for now at least.

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crazy325897 profile image
Crazy

I'd say no. I am a teen (14 now) and I self learned to code. It's like my hobby or passion and no one introduced me to tech. And I think we should not either but we should encourage them if they want to and maybe help them a bit but only if they ask for.

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peerreynders

big-bang: the world, universe, and network in the programming language (2015):

I don't care about programming per se, I think it is a mistake of all of us to think that we need to teach programming. We should teach something so that kids who walk away from there, from this middle school, never program again but become doctors and journalists and artists, take something out of that thing - that synthesis of math and programming.

And what you don't know - what I'm talking about, here is the bottom line, I mean bottom line as in money. There is a longitudinal study by the US, the DOE, Department of Education that predicts if you understand the the concept of function, under all other circumstances equal, your income will be higher at 30.

Your understanding of the concept of function at middle school predicts your income at 30.

I suspect he is referencing this 1997 study Mathematics Equals Opportunity