The real reason why kids (and everyone else) should learn to code

One of my favorite podcasts these days is ZigZag, which bills itself as "an honest look at the culture of business—and what needs to change." In particular, it often touches on digital culture and blockchain, as hosts Manoush Zomorodi and Jen Poyant were early participants in the Civil journalism platform.

In their latest episode, ZigZag interviewed Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, makers of the Firefox web browser and other cool open-source stuff.

The conversation covered a lot of interesting ground, including the following quote that really struck me. When asked around the 26-minute mark whether kids should learn to code, Surman said:

"I do think the whole 'learn to code movement' is very right and very wrong. It's right in that -- I think -- really, we do want everbody to learn to code. We want all of our kids to be exposed to that. But the reason isn't because we want them all to be engineers. In fact, God forbid that everybody in society was an engineer. That's not a balanced society. But it's because it's helpful for people to be able to understand how the digital world around them works,  the logic of the things that are happening.  So -- as jobs change, as we get targeted or choose  to not be targeted in terms of how our data is used -- that we're kind of understanding what's going on. And so I often think of "learn to code" as being a bigger part of literacy, of understanding how the world works and the logic of it."

As someone who's taught both kids and adults to make websites from scratch using HTML and CSS, I couldn't agree more. This argument essentially puts coding in the same category as geometry theorems or diagramming sentences -- stuff every schoolkid has whined they'll never use in real life.

While that might strictly be true, it misses the more relevant point: Coding teaches you how to think, which is intrinsically valuable in life. That's why you should learn it.

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