OPINION: Computer programming should be mandatory for K-12 education

Computer programming classes need to be included in the core curriculum for K-12 education.

The world is becoming ever more digital, and coding languages are becoming more complex and prevalent in today’s world. For the same reasons students are required to take math, science and English, students need to be learning these digital skills to prepare themselves for the new state of the world.

I’m not saying every student who walks across the stage to receive their high school diploma should, at that point, be ready to work at Google or Microsoft. It takes time to master even the most basic programming languages. However, students should be able to transition into whatever they plan to do next with a fundamental understanding of the logic behind some of the more common languages used today.

Currently, the numbers are looking up, with 51% of U.S. high schools offering foundational computer science courses as of 2021, according to Code.org. But there are still bugs to work out — rural schools, urban schools and schools with higher percentages of economically disadvantaged students are still less likely to offer any computer science courses. Additionally, across 37 states, only 4.7% of high school students are enrolled in these courses.

“Given the significance of computing in today’s society, it is inadequate that half of schools lack even a single course,” the report said.

I agree, this is a great start, but we can always improve.

The rates at which I see each incoming generation progress academically always astounds me. I recently learned my childhood middle school is now teaching geometry to 8th graders – a class usually offered to our high school sophomores and juniors. We have the capacity and ability to do this with computer programming as well.

Our newer generations can handle the curriculum, especially given the fact that many new generations start far more technologically literate than their parents or grandparents. Even if our schools had to start off with very lightweight, more conceptually oriented classes to focus on the logic behind coding, so be it.

These courses could be offered earlier on in middle and even elementary school to prepare students for more rigorous courses down the road. High schools could then start to offer far more advanced courses for students who excel or those who want to pursue coding after graduation.

Every day, I see more and more advertisements for coding bootcamps and online certification programs. Why couldn’t we simply include this into the public education system? At the very least, we could give our students a leg up if they want to pursue this kind of career.

Even if your student doesn’t wish to code for their career, these skills are valuable in their own right and help students become better learners overall. I was required to take a foreign language in high school, so I chose German, expecting to use it on the rarest of occasions. But I still learned valuable historical, linguistic and cultural knowledge from this course.

Offering computer science courses early on in public schooling would not only teach our new students the skills and knowledge to succeed in this new digital world, but also bolster their understanding of logic, mathematics and engineering as well.

Sean Gilley (he/him) is a senior studying political science and economics with a certificate in informatics.