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Will Your Child Speak the Language of the Future?

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Being a dad of two young boys, I have thought a great deal lately about what the world will look like for them in the future. I want them to understand that no one owes you anything in this life, so work hard and be happy with what you receive. I also think that learning a second or third language will benefit them greatly.
But, what about learning a programming language? This could perhaps be the most important language of all in the future.
I know, you might be saying my kid doesn’t seem like the geeky tech type. Really? If you own an iPad or smartphone, how long did it take your very young child to figure out how to use it and then act like they couldn’t live without it? My two boys were adopted from Russia at the ages of 2 and 3. It took them about two minutes to figure out how to punch in a numeric pass code and discover where the games were. They had never seen a smartphone, let alone interacted with one.
My point is that I think kids are naturally drawn to technology. Why not give them a head start on the job market and let them learn the basics of coding and a technology language?  In my experience, not knowing how to code feels very much like not knowing how to type fast when I was in college. I would pay other students to type my papers for me.
If you happen to have a great idea for an Internet  start-up you are going to be in the same position. You won’t be able to do anything without hiring someone who writes code. Even if you didn’t know the language your app or site is coded in, I think you will have a better understanding about what is required to produce a finished product.
I recently read an article where kids in Chattanooga, Tennessee are learning about the basics of coding. In Chattanooga? Isn’t that a place in the south that would be more apt to teaching kids how to hunt, cook BBQ and when to wear camo (uh always)? Apparently not. Several local technology groups located in Chattanooga sponsored the event.
A friend of mine, Travis Truett, who has a successful startup and got to go through the Y Combinator program in Silicon Valley this year, suggested that teenagers should start on Python due to the fact that it’s powerful, clean, and easy to get something up and going. For younger kids, he felt that MIT’s Scratch language was a great choice because it’s easy to pick up and a great way to learn logic.
Gene Richardson, the CIO at Experts Exchange, felt that Java is a great way to go. With Java they would be able to create a web page, something they see and use everyday on the Internet.
There are a number of sites that have resources dedicated to helping kids learn to code.  Some of those sites include Code ClubComputer Science Unplugged, CoderDojo, Tynker, just to name a few.  
No matter what your opinion is on the best first language to learn, any language will open your child’s eyes to a whole new world where the geeks have become rock stars and are highly sought after by every technology company in Silicon Valley and beyond. Besides, your son or daughter just might create the next app that everyone can’t get enough of, and you can take a little of the credit. 

Expert Comment

by:Neil Carmichael
As geeks we can help more than just our own children by starting or helping at a coding club.

I certainly intend to get my children involved as as soon as their ready

LVL 111

Expert Comment

by:Ray Paseur
Randy: Love the article!

When I was school age, we didn't learn to code, but we did learn music theory, transposition, etc.  It was part of the school music arts curriculum and was something you could supplement if you took music lessons.  The same kind of thinking was involved - a disciplined approach to achieve a structured outcome.  If I were designing an elementary school curriculum today, I would definitely include coding, perhaps using Java, or Python and a Raspberry Pi, so the students could "do stuff" and see the results with instant gratification.  But I think I would do it on the same scale as the school arts program in music.  Dip a toe and see if you like the waters.

Most grade school students are not really very good at anything, though a few shine in sports, spelling, music and dance, etc.  I expect that the young experience of coding will be similar.  Children can be plus-or-minus 3 years in any dimension of development - academic, linguistic, athletic, spiritual, and still be under the fat part of the bell curve.  For some, coding will be a thrill.  For others, they will find inspiration in theater or baseball or something else.

One of the most successful men I know drove a truck to work his way through college, majoring in English.  He joined IBM after college, but didn't really take well to programming, so he became a salesman.  There's more to the story, of course, but I can say with 100% certainty (as a programmer) that programming is overrated when you compare it to the general disciplines of salesmanship, organization, oratory and leadership.  The many programmers he hired, myself among them, made fortunes while he made a very large fortune.  And none of us regrets our choices nor our places in the story of our lives together.  We are what we are, and I could not have led his organization any more than he could have written my code.  

If you delve into the 100 greatest speeches of all time (Google that concept) and look for thematic similarities, you will find that they are all about causes and relationships.  These are the things that derive from our most closely held values, and that move our hearts, our minds, our armies, and our destiny.

Study programming and coding?  Sure!  It will enrich at least as many young lives as music.  But for the sake of our children, let's keep coding in perspective, in the context of our values, causes and relationships.

Administrative Comment

by:Randal Redberg
Thank you Ray. 100% agree on your point of enriching our lives just as music does.
LVL 10

Expert Comment

I love this article! Thanks :)

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