Programming is trendy. Every month I see a new ad of some course that will supposedly turn me into a developer. Some of them claim they can teach everyone to code in as little as 6 weeks. Others last a whole year or more, but will only collect any money once you finally land your first coding job.
Some of my friends complain that such courses do a great harm. They sell a false hope that everyone can be a programmer, even though most participants will never get there. And what’s even worse, you can’t get all the needed expertise over the course of just 6 weeks – the most you can get is a false sense of overconfidence.
If you’re feeling the same and think that code produced by those people is a true disaster, think again. The alternative is a world where hardly anyone ever tried coding at all.
I’m not here to say everyone can be a good programmer. Most people wouldn’t even enjoy working as one in the first place! Still, I do believe everyone should learn how to code, or should at least give it a try. It has become one of the most important skills you can learn, like reading, writing, googling, and basic math.
Just like with coding, most books, articles, and blogs people have written are simply awful. I’m sure you’ve read at least one terrible book, and it was probably written by someone who makes a living this way. So why do we force every single kid to learn how to write? Do we really need more Twilight fan fiction in the world, or blogs about Justin Bieber?
We don’t teach kids to write in hope they become the next Shakespeare. If that was the goal, we’d just focus on the top 5% that show greatest potential and give up on the rest. Instead, we’re giving them an important tool to create the world they live in, structure their thinking, share their arguments in an organised way, and to communicate with the rest of that world. In that sense, coding is no different.
Even the most basic coding course will give you something invaluable – a glimpse of insight into how computers works, and of how their language translates into ours. With our lives becoming more and more dependent on technology, this is a critical skill to have. I have no idea what our jobs will be like in another 30 years, but I can guarantee that computers will play a huge role in the most of them. Understanding that role, and making advantage of it, will make a crucial difference between an average teacher, scientist, or marketer, and a great one – even if they produce really bad code, or no code at all.
I don’t expect anyone to learn programming in one day – even one year might not be enough. However, if you never try it, you’ll never know if it could be something for you. If it wasn’t for one random painting class at a company meetup, I’d never have known that painting gives me so much joy, bought a large heap of painting supplies, or learned the difference between oil and acrylic in practice. I’ll probably never become a professional painter, and neither will most people attending that class, but I’m happy I had that one chance to try.
Now if someone wants to try coding, I want to give them the same chance. If there’s just one person inspired by our class to explore programming on their own, this is a reason good enough to teach it.