It’s true that high-school coding classes aren’t essential for learning computer science in college. Students without experience can catch up after a few introductory courses, said Tom Cortina, the assistant dean at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science.
However, Cortina said, early exposure is beneficial. When younger kids learn computer science, they learn that it’s not just a confusing, endless string of letters and numbers — but a tool to build apps, or create artwork, or test hypotheses. It’s not as hard for them to transform their thought processes as it is for older students. Breaking down problems into bite-sized chunks and using code to solve them becomes normal. Giving more children this training could increase the number of people interested in the field and help fill the jobs gap, Cortina said.
Students also benefit from learning something about coding before they get to college, where introductory computer-science classes are packed to the brim, which can drive the less-experienced or-determined students away.
The Flatiron School, where people pay to learn programming, started as one of the many coding bootcamps that’s become popular for adults looking for a career change. The high-schoolers get the same curriculum, but “we try to gear lessons toward things they’re interested in,” said Victoria Friedman, an instructor. For instance, one of the apps the students are developing suggests movies based on your mood.
The students in the Flatiron class probably won’t drop out of high school and build the next Facebook. Programming languages have a quick turnover, so the “Ruby on Rails” language they learned may not even be relevant by the time they enter the job market. But the skills they learn — how to think logically through a problem and
organize the results — apply to any coding language, said Deborah Seehorn, an education consultant for the state of North Carolina.
Indeed, the Flatiron students might not go into IT at all. But creating a future army of coders is not the sole purpose of the classes. These kids are going to be surrounded by computers — in their pockets, in their offices, in their homes — for the rest of their lives. The younger they learn how computers think, how to coax the machine into producing what they want — the earlier they learn that they have the power to do that — the better.
Today, widespread social pressure to immediately go to college in conjunction with increasingly high expectations in a fast-moving world often causes students to completely overlook the possibility of taking a gap year. After all, if everyone you know is going to college in the fall, it seems silly to stay back a year, doesn’t it? And after going to school for 12 years, it doesn’t feel natural to spend a year doing something that isn’t academic.
But while this may be true, it’s not a good enough reason to condemn gap years. There’s always a constant fear of falling behind everyone else on the socially perpetuated “race to the finish line,” whether that be toward graduate school, medical school or lucrative career. But despite common misconceptions, a gap year does not hinder the success of academic pursuits-in fact, it probably enhances it.
Studies from the United States and Australia show that students who take a gap year are generally better prepared for and perform better in college than those who do not. Rather than pulling students back, a gap year pushes them ahead by preparing them for independence, new responsibilities and environmental changes-all things that first-year students often struggle with the most. Gap year experiences can lessen the blow when it comes to adjusting to college and being thrown into a brand new environment, making it easier to focus on academics and activities rather than acclimation blunders.
If you’re not convinced of the inherent value in taking a year off to explore interests, then consider its financial impact on future academic choices. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 80 percent of college students end up changing their majors at least once. This isn’t surprising, considering the basic mandatory high school curriculum leaves students with a poor understanding of themselves listing one major on their college applications, but switching to another after taking college classes. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but depending on the school, it can be costly to make up credits after switching too late in the game. At Boston College, for example, you would have to complete an extra year were you to switch to the nursing school from another department. Taking a gap year to figure things out initially can help prevent stress and save money later on.
It is curious that Stephen Koziatek feels almost as though he has to justify his efforts to give his students a better future.
Mr. Koziatek is part of something pioneering. He is a teacher at a New Hampshire high school where learning is not something of books and tests and mechanical memorization, but practical. When did it become accepted wisdom that students should be able to name the 13th president of the United States but be utterly overwhelmed by a broken bike Chain?
As Koziatek know, there is learning in just about everything. Nothing is necessarily gained by forcing students to learn geometry at a graffitied desk stuck with generations of discarded chewing gum. They can also learn geometry by assembling a bicycle.
But he’s also found a kind of insidious prejudice. Working with your hands is seen as almost a mark of inferiority. School in the family of vocational education “have that stereotype…that it’s for kids who can’t make it academically,” he says.
On one hand,that viewpoint is a logical product of America’s evolution.Manufacturing is not the economic engine that it once was.The job security that the US economy once offered to high school graduates has largely evaporated. More education is the new principle.We want more for our kids,and rightfully so.
But the headlong push into bachelor’s degrees for all—and the subtle devaluing of anything less—misses an important point:That’s not the only thing the American economy needs.Yes,a bachelor’s degree opens moredoors.Buteven now,54 percent of the jobs in the country are middle-skill jobs,such as construction and high-skill manufacturing.But only 44 percent of workers are adequately trained.
In other words,at a time when the working class has turned the country on its political head,frustrated that the opportunity that once defined America is vanishing,one obvious solution is staring us in the face.There is a gap in working-class jobs, but the workers who need those jobs most aren’t equipped to do them.Koziatek’s Manchester School of Technology High School is trying to fill that gap.
Koziatek’s school is a wake-up call. When education becomes one-size-fits-all,it risks overlooking a nation’s diversity of gifts.