Why schools need to teach programming

A cavalcade of tech superstars recount their first time programming. Awww. Sure, it’s cute. But the underlying theme is nothing less than frightening for U.S. innovation.

The video producer, Code.org, notes that 90 percent of U.S. secondary schools don’t offer computer programming classes. Unfortunately, they don’t offer any links, credits or footnotes to their claim. So The Upstart went digging.

A 2010 report, Running On Empty: The Failure to Teach K–12 Computer Science in the Digital Age, conducted by Carnegie Mellon University researchers and commissioned by the Association of Computing Machinery and the Computer Science Teachers Association illustrated a shocking lack of priority for programming in math or science course work. Only 9 states count programming toward core graduation credit. No states require computer science education.

Closer to home, the research finds Colorado was among the worst in the nation in adopting the recommended computer science education standards.

So what can the startup and DIY communities do? I’d suggest a little more fact-finding to begin.

1. Are the stats correct?
2. What effect does TABOR (the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights that strangles the state budget) have on technology education?
3. What effect does federal education mandates have on computer science course offerings?
4. What role does/should the startup and DIY communities play in supporting programming outside the usual confines of school curricula with a lack of technology trained school professionals and computer lab funding shortages?
5. How to scale community support beyond a single school or school district into meaningful, sustainable and systemic change?