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CSE’s Ed Lazowska in NY Times on the value of teaching kids to program

JP-CODING-superJumboA set of letters in Friday’s New York Times were prompted by last Sunday’s article “Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lately, Coding.” One is from UW CSE’s Ed Lazowska:

To the Editor:

Your article provides nice exposure for the movement to expand computer science in K-12. But it does not mention several critical pieces of the argument.

Coding and computer science aren’t the same. Taught right, programming — coding — is the hands-on, inquiry-based way that students learn what we call “computational thinking”: problem analysis and decomposition, abstraction, algorithmic thinking, algorithmic expression, stepwise fault isolation (we call it “debugging”) and modeling.

In the 21st century, every student should learn to program, for three reasons. Computational thinking is an essential capability for just about everyone. Programming is an incredibly useful skill: fields from anthropology to zoology are becoming information fields, and those who can bend the power of the computer to their will have an advantage over those who can’t. Finally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 71 percent of all new jobs in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) during the next decade will be in computer science.

Computer science is the future. Is your child going to be ready for it?

Seattle, May 11, 2014

The writer holds the Bill and Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington.

Read this and the other letters here.

And check out some slides with astonishing data on the growth of computer science enrollment at colleges and universities nationwide here.