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Should programming be a required curriculum in public schools?

Displaying poll results.
Yes - multiple classes starting in high school
  1392 votes / 7%
Yes - multiple classes starting before high school
  4915 votes / 26%
Yes - as a single class at any time
  3305 votes / 17%
No - it'll do more harm than good
  1280 votes / 6%
No - too many kids won't learn anything from it
  3529 votes / 19%
No - leave it to vocational schools
  1451 votes / 7%
I don't need more job competition, you insensitive clod!
  2546 votes / 13%
18418 total votes.
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  • Don't complain about lack of options. You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks.
  • Feel free to suggest poll ideas if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest reading the past polls first.
  • This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.
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Should programming be a required curriculum in public schools?

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  • Wouldn't work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mattventura (1408229) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @06:55PM (#46363349) Homepage

    I remember reading something a while back about how certain people's brains are just more geared towards programming and that other people simply won't really "get" it no matter how much you try to force it into their head. There should definitely be more programming classes available to those who want them, but if you're going to force the less tech-oriented students to take a tech class, it should be something that either teaches them general computer usage or helps them use computers in education.

    That's another issue with how computers are used in education: you have to strike the perfect balance between "using teaching time and resources to teach technology" and "using technology to educate". Getting the wrong mix ends up screwing both aspects over since you end up with technology being forced into places it doesn't belong, or you end up with students who only know how to use a computer to do their homework.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27, 2014 @09:01PM (#46364305)

      I had to take four semesters of foreign languages during high school and two in middle school. I failed all six.
      I'm an excellent computer programmer with over 25 years in the industry.
      If I had to fail foreign languages, everyone else can fail a couple of semesters of computer programming.

      • Re:Wouldn't work (Score:5, Interesting)

        by pspahn (1175617) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @11:14PM (#46365001)

        Pretty much the same agreement here.

        My teenage brain wasn't wired for going home and learning things I spent all day learning. So I didn't and I failed a bunch of classes because I just rarely did homework. No biggie, because I did spend time reading programming books and other resources that just weren't available through traditional education.

        I'm sure there are loads of kids that are like I was. They get crappy to marginal grades in subjects "their brains aren't wired for." The classic underachiever.

        I guess the biggest problem is getting people to teach programming. I've taught a few students when I worked at a day treatment school, but would I go back to something like that (for that pay) when I could be building cool stuff instead (for that pay)? You'd probably just be best off leaving the kids to run their own show, as the adults will do nothing but hinder and control it.

        • Re:Wouldn't work (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Friday February 28, 2014 @12:49AM (#46365327) Homepage Journal

          "My teenage brain wasn't wired for going home and learning things I spent all day learning."

          No teenage brain is. That is why parents also have to instill a reasonable work ethic and show them algorithms for reaching goals. If we all just passed stuff off that we weren't naturally good at as not being worth it we would be inadequately prepared for life.

          I was not and am not naturally inclined towards math, but in my adulthood I went back to school, spent hours a day at it and had tutors and I finally got through basic calculus and even a little linear algebra. It was hard. And it was worth it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by gIobaljustin (3526197)

            No teenage brain is. That is why

            ... people should pull their children out of these shitty one-size-fits-all schools.

            • Why is my parent modded flaimbait?
              He is perfectly right!

              Our school systems (not looking either at USA nor germany nor any other for that matter) fail in three ways: they can not teach a genious (bored bored bored) they can not teach the mediocre ... and most of all they can not socialize them to live/learn together.

              When I was young we kids considereds chool a children prison .. no one realy understood why we should spend 6 - 8 hours a day in school when you could read/learn the stuff in 1 hour. No one told/

          • Re:Wouldn't work (Score:5, Insightful)

            by schlachter (862210) on Friday February 28, 2014 @02:36PM (#46369267)

            It's not about having a predisposition towards programming. Plenty of people aren't predisposed to math, science, english, etc, but they still have to take these courses.

            Just because you take a few classes that help you to understand logic and how computers work doesn't mean you have to be a computer scientist.

          • by arth1 (260657)

            "My teenage brain wasn't wired for going home and learning things I spent all day learning."

            No teenage brain is.

            People are different - even teenagers.
            I used to look forward to school starting, because I got glorious new maths, physics and chemistry books. I spent the first couple of weeks going through all the exercises and tests at home, and then was bored out of my mind for the rest of the school year. Sometimes I stole my three year older brother's assignments, so I could have fun solving problems.

        • When I was in high school I took two years of IBM basic {electively, and I know 1980s was a long time ago} the computer courses offered at that school, now that my kid goes there, are Microsoft Office.

          I think even VB.Net would be better than what they have although I would prefer C or C++.

          • I had a semester that started with QBasic and moved on to VB6, then a semester of "C++" (aka C, using C++ iostreams). Those were the classes that convinced me that I could do software engineering, and that I might enjoy it.

            Somehow I got past the "typing and MS Office" class. I don't know what my life would've been if I was forced into those instead of being able to try out the cool stuff instead.
            • I'm completely disappointed with my kid's classes most of the things I loved about school aren't there anymore aside from the IBM Basic they don't do any lab experiments in their science classes either due to cost and insurance issues.

              I used to spend my last morning class {history} impatiently watching the clock because after lunch it was Computers and Science. If I were to take those courses as they are offered now I would probably fall asleep.

            • by frisket (149522)
              My kids did Logo extramural classes at the local school, so they learned what a program is, how to express Boolean logic, and why programs sometimes fail. The eldest "got it" and is now a fully-qualified (although not practising) COBOL programmer (work for a *bank*? the ignominy :-) but still working in IT. The other two are in unrelated fields, but the legacy of having learned how to make a computer do something means they have no problems in understanding pretty much anything user-level IT can throw at th
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      That's usually a problem with the teacher. The teacher who taught "programming for dummies" said if you can bake cookies, you can program a computer. A recipe is a program. If you can follow a recipe, you can read a program. If you can read a recipe, you can alter it (what happens if you put in more salt into the cookies?). And that's programming. Sure, you are executing your own program, but you can hand it to someone else for execution, or just write it down for reference.

      Anyone who can pass home e
      • by dbIII (701233)
        Funny thing is they wouldn't let boys do home ec or typing when I went to school and both are pretty damn important skills now.
    • by binarybum (468664)

      This is true of all learned subjects.
        Temper your nihilism.

    • by Aryden (1872756)
      I barely ever touched a computer through my formative years. It wasn't until I got out of the Army that I began using a computer as something more than a console to play Civilization and watch porn on the internet. But, once I did, I found that I did have a knack for making sense of things and developing software, debugging and databases. Now, it's how I make my living and it's a damn good living. If I I had had the opportunity to explore this earlier on, I would be much further along in experience and thin
    • by Capsaicin (412918) *

      There should definitely be more programming classes available to those who want them [my emphasis]

      You know I hate to be boring and complain about missing poll options ...

      • by gnick (1211984)

        Agree 100%. Should a plethora of programming courses be required? No. Should they be available? Hell yes.

    • by invid (163714)
      When I took computer classes there were plenty of people who just didn't "get it". Pointers and memory addresses seemed to be a major road-block for those people. Of course, with high level languages these days pointers aren't a major concern. My suggestion would be that a computer class is mandatory, with a "Computer Fundamentals" class that just taught a little basic architecture and how to be a smart user for those who don't want to learn programming. Programming really isn't for everyone, but you need t
  • What about treating it like other "literacy" types? Many subject include projects include the option or expectation of writing, speaking, mathematically analyzing, and or graphically illustrating topics. Why shouldn't dedicated education in this modality be supplemented by incorporating it in the other classes?

    Mathematical and computer modelling is a huge educational and research tool. It'd be nice to see a bit more of that in our classrooms.

  • Problem Solving (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cogeek (2425448) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @07:16PM (#46363537)
    I think problem solving and logic are much more important than coding itself. Lots of kids have no interest in coding and it will just be another class they struggle in. Teach them how to solve a problem logically and they can apply it to lots of things in life. Coding can be used as examples to show how the logic flows through the process from beginning to end, but to try and force a bunch of kids to learn how to code variables, If Then statements, recursive loops, I'd be banging my head against a wall as a teacher.
    • Re:Problem Solving (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @11:21PM (#46365037) Homepage Journal

      I think problem solving and logic are much more important than coding itself. Lots of kids have no interest in coding and it will just be another class they struggle in. Teach them how to solve a problem logically and they can apply it to lots of things in life. Coding can be used as examples to show how the logic flows through the process from beginning to end, but to try and force a bunch of kids to learn how to code variables, If Then statements, recursive loops, I'd be banging my head against a wall as a teacher.

      "Ah, but teaching them coding is a vehicle for teaching them logical problem solving," said the ex-math teacher in rebuttal. I used to use the same rationale for explaining to students why they needed the logical problem solving abilities they were learning in my math classes as much (if not more) than they needed the actual math techniques. I don't know how you would teach "logical problem solving" without some vehicle like math, programming, etc.


      • by msauve (701917)

        I don't know how you would teach "logical problem solving" without some vehicle like math, programming, etc.

        Flowcharts no longer exist? When did that happen?

        • I don't know how you would teach "logical problem solving" without some vehicle like math, programming, etc.

          Flowcharts no longer exist? When did that happen?

          Sometimes I actually find it amusing when people criticize some unmentioned, tangental aspect of an assertion and then don't bother to connect what they've said or offer an alternative. In your case it's just sad.


        • Flowcharts no longer exist? When did that happen?

          News to me

          Actually, flow charts are a form of programming. A good place to start. Something like a simple variant of Simulink or LabView would even allow the computer to run the logic depicted in the diagram.

  • by muhula (621678) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @07:25PM (#46363587)
    Just like calculus... don't make it required, but people who are willing to take it should be able to
    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      It should be the opposite - make calculus a mandatory course.

    • Just like calculus... don't make it required

      ...but calculus used to be required at least in the UK for O'level maths. This meant that everyone going to university - even arts students - used to have to know at least simple, basic calculus. I've seen lots of arguments that science and engineering students need to learn better english skills at school and, as a university professor who teaches them, I'd agree it would be beneficial. However the flip side of this is that the arts students need to learn better maths and science skills at school. Since c

  • by istartedi (132515) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @07:36PM (#46363683) Journal

    [x] No, it should be elective.

    Remember electives? Typing was elective when I went to HS. I took it specifically because I figured it would be useful for computing. Home ec, auto shop, languages, etc. All elective. IIRC, you were required to take at least one elective to broaden your horizons; but the choice was yours. I'm pretty sure my HS computer class (with 8-bit NECs!) was elective because there just weren't enough resources to make it required. That made for a teacher and students who were both motivated. The teacher was a consultant who only taught for that one hour. I wonder what he's up to these days.

    • by issicus (2031176)
      missing option 'one semester or year in high school' . It's worth knowing as much as logic or algebra.
    • [x] No, it should be elective.


      Just because computers are something "they'll use every day" doesn't mean programming should be a required course, any more than automotive repair should be. Or food prep.

      In the case of many public school attendees, Point-of-Sale and industrial deep fryer operation would be far more relevant to their future careers.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @07:56PM (#46363833) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, there are those who do have the aptitude, but they'd be going like 90 while their classmates are struggling with if .. then .. else

    I don't think high school is a place for screening courses, save that for the first year of college.

    "yes, your code works, but you put documentation in it, that will not do."

  • It makes sense to have one required class that teaches the basics - logic, loops, and basic algorithms. It has to be basic enough that everyone should be able to follow along and accomplish something trivial, but meaningful. Once this course is complete, then the people that like it can move on to more advanced classes if they want them. The stuff I've seen online (I'm afraid I don't remember what it's called) that Bill Gates and Zuckerberg and those guys are doing is a good first step, but most normal peop
  • Algebra introduces the use of variables. Should students first see variables in a programming class or a math class.

    • I disagree. Many people understand the concept of variables long before their introduction to Algebra.

      I remember Algebra being a course about factoring and moving variables within the equation. I am not going to deny that the skills gained in these exercises are useful; but, they should not be a barrier.

      I remember being in High School and not being permitted to take a computer class because I was not in Calculus. This didn't motivate me to study Calculus; further, computer classes should not be used as a ca

  • by Qwade79 (2464458) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @10:56PM (#46364925)
    [X] No - it'll do more harm than good

    Eventually some of those high school students will make their way through an MBA course which will lead to disaster.

    Let me put it this way - how much worse could your boss/team lead/manager screw things up if they thought they could code?

    • [X] No - it'll do more harm than good

      I'll have to agree with this. Programming should be only taught to people who have already managed to learn the basics by themselves, using whatever methods available to them. They are the ones that will benefit the most from being taught, having already proved that both motivation towards subject and required reasoning capability exist.

      Nowadays, there are plenty of self-learning resources available on the internet, both the tools and documentation are available mostly for free. The remaining obstacles for

    • by wed128 (722152)

      how much worse could your boss/team lead/manager screw things up if they thought they could code?

      Maybe they would be better at their jobs if they knew a little more about software, and that it is not black magic, but an art that takes time and care to get good results.

    • by sootman (158191)

      Tough to say. It might be offset from the GOOD that would come if people would quit making SharePoint lists with text fields to hold numeric data.
      3 ...
      kill me.

    • Let me put it this way - how much worse could your boss/team lead/manager screw things up if they thought they could code?

      You're right, better leave them doing the same job with a convoluted Excel spreadsheet.

  • by RandCraw (1047302) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @11:28PM (#46365071)

    Should all kids be required to take a computer class? Yes. Several? Yes. This stuff is going to be a big part of their lifestyle for the next 70 years. It'd be idiotic not to give them more of a clue that they'll get browsing Facebook.

    What should those classes teach?

    - OS principles (files, folders, networks, security)
    - Basic hardware and architecture, printers, etc
    - Troubleshooting, debugging skills
    - Basics of software, which includes an intro to programming principles and practices (processes, procedures, loops, bugs, etc)

    Computing and data will be such a fundamental omnipresent part of ALL modern life that no one can call themselves educated without gaining some rudimentary understanding of how they work. That includes software, how it works, and how it's made.

  • Speaking as someone who had to do a "computer" subject at school back in the mid 80s, I will say that I leared a lot from that time that still applies today. We basically only learned BASIC, but I can't remember the PCs. I think they were Casio.
    Anyway, this subject was compulsory, even though it was not a core subject and was not part of final year exams. Most of us loved it, even though quite a few struggled with it.
    Like some others have already mentioned, programming does teach you logic.
    In my opinion and

  • Some of you lot here might be old enough to remember or have been victimized by "new math" []. Among other things, new math attempted to teach school kids various things that would be needed in order to be more computer savvy. I learned, among other things, basic set theory and the idea that numbers could be represented in other than base 10, including binary representation. But after I had learned programming I found at a rummage sale somewhere an older "new math" basic algebra book that contained various

  • I'd say the best approach is to just take your time. Most first world kids are in school for at least a decade, which is plenty of time to cover the fundamentals without overwhelming anyone who just doesn't grok it before they reach a point where they can opt out altogether in secondary school. So, small steps starting when they are young. Kids love to play with stuff, so start them off with programmable toys once they have the basics of the Three Rs down. At the outset this should be more fun than prog
  • by KarlH420 (532043) on Friday February 28, 2014 @10:06AM (#46366949) Homepage
    In elementary school (in the 80's for me) We used logo, and it was a good introduction to programming. []
  • It should be taught as a tool. Lots of other homework could be made easier/more fun with programming.
    • by fplatten (588351)
      Exactly, I've always thought that Calculus, Trig, and Statistics should be taught in high school with computers only. No paper, pencil, and NO math notation. Learn how to use it to solve problems and get the concepts down. Plenty of time to learn the theory and notation in college when you've had a couple years of doing tasks on a computer. Teachers spend so much time teaching the notation regurgitating the theory that has no basis in how it's actually used that it's no wonder so many teens get turned o
  • by X10 (186866)

    Why on earth should kids learn to program? If you want to teach them programming, are you going to teach them every other profession too? Will they get flying lessons, in "pilot class"? Will they be taught architecture, so they can build their own house? I think it's nonsense.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Because no matter what profession they choose, they will work with computers. That's the way the world is going. Teaching them how to use those computers effectively will be a huge advantage to them. For example, most office workers spend their days doing the same repetitive tasks over and over again. Knowing how to write scripts to automate those tasks would be very useful. Teaching the basics of programming isn't equivalent of training them to be developers, it's just showing them how to use the tools the

  • It's not the government's job the educate children, even less so when the funds used to do so are extorted essentially at gunpoint from people who don't even have children or whose children are not using the public schools.

    However, in the current terrible and violent public school system, it's beneficial to the kids to have programming courses available, at least those so inclined may get something useful in life out of it. The overall public school experience is detrimental and harmful though, to kids and

  • One or two good computer classes that would teach a bit of code but mainly a) how computers work (hint: NOT MAGIC, and NOT SENTIENT) and b) logic would be great.

    • One or two good computer classes that would teach a bit of code but mainly a) how computers work (hint: NOT MAGIC, and NOT SENTIENT) and b) logic would be great.

      Because people use computers every day, and thus should have at least a basic understanding of how they work, right?

      So... why isn't a basic Automotive Maintenance class mandated as well? Oh, and we should also mandate a basic electrical class, since we all use electrical devices every day. Oh, and a basic food prep class, and a basic parenting class, and a basic household/finance management class...

      You know, I started off going for sarcasm, but the more "joke" mandatory classes I think of, the more I think,

      • by LodCrappo (705968)

        Many of those subjects *are* required in American high schools. Electricity and the principles of combustion engines/mechanical systems are covered in physics and chemistry. The math used to manage finances and in food recipes is covered by traditional math classes, even in elementary school. Biology covers the mechanisms behind producing a child, if not the parenting.

        There is value in understanding the basic concepts of computing, just as there is value in the basic concepts of chemistry, physics, biolo

  • I recommend that children learn nothing about computers beyond how to play games and use Facebook. Don't learn programming, hardware, operating systems, or networking. That way, I'm employable for the rest of my life.
  • Should wood shop be a required class? Welding? Auto shop? POS system operation?

    Schools are supposed to places that teach kids to be well-rounded, fully functional adults, not how to be a good employee. Let the businesses pay for their own damn training*.

    * Not to say it shouldn't be offered as an elective, like wood shop or media production.

  • Programming shouldn't be required; but teaching the ability to organize your thoughts, find references, documents and articles on the web (or library), separate facts from opinions, communicate those well, now THAT is a class I would like to see. Some of the best programmers I've known actually didn't learn a language in their first course; instead they learned how to look at problems in a programmatic way first. Then the language just becomes a tool to be use to realize the design.
  • There is zero financial reason for anyone in America to pursue STEM. They are better off getting into medical, legal, real estate or starting their own business.

    All my life I wanted to be a programmer like my Dad was in the 70's. He made good money and it was a very respected career even through the 80's. I tinkered with computers, learned to program in BASIC, then C and went on to learn a lot of UNIX shell scripting.
    I graduated high school in 1991 and entered college with a bit of excitement. Half way thro

    • I think that you can find crappy work environments in any field of employment, and Software is no exception. I've been coding professionally since the late 80s and have nearly always enjoyed my projects and work environment.

  • Most students won't be scientists, but science is required, in part to help students understand the basics of how science works.
    Most students won't be artists, nor can many of them succeed at being good artists, but many schools require at least some art or music, in part to help students have a basic understanding of this important part of our lives.
    Most students won't become programmers, but they should at least understand the basics of how you tell computers to do things. This understanding will help th

  • @ the time of this posting the percentages added up to 96%. Where did the other 4% of votes go? Is this FL in 2000? WTF?
  • In my high school, we were required to take at least one year of a programming course, I didn't know this wasn't the norm.
  • by NapalmV (1934294) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @12:46PM (#46381859)
    I am quite amazed by the number of votes recommending that an engineering discipline should be taught before high school

    The purpose of grades 1 to 8 are to teach kids how things are made and work, not how to design / engineer them. That's largely the purpose of college and university.
  • by kencurry (471519) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @01:29PM (#46382097)
    What are the mandatory subjects that nearly all STEM students think are useless? english & history
    What are mandatory STEM subject that nearly everyone else thinks are useless? math, chemistry & physics

    Now that we are adults (many of us are now parents also) we can see that this all of it was important and we should have applied ourselves better in high school. We can say "all kids need to learn computing theory, programming etc. because it is important" all we want; but, look how it was when we were young. Ultimately, the lessons I take away as far as educating our kids:

    1. We need to pay & respect teachers better to get better results in public education
    2. For key STEM subjects, you must find a way to make it relevant to the student TODAY.
    3. Parents must work everyday to keep their kids motivated to learn.
    4. Bottom line: kids need discipline and fun in their lives in equal measure. Don't beat it into them, motivate them & let them WANT to do it.
  • by wcrowe (94389) on Monday March 03, 2014 @05:05PM (#46390291)

    No, no, a thousand times no. Would you require plumbing classes? Electrician classes? Carpentry? Auto repair? Accounting? The list goes on. You can't offer classes for every job specialty that there is out there. The logistics alone are unfeasible. Where will you hold these classes? Where will the equipment come from and who will maintain it? Who are you going to get to teach programming? These are fine things to offer as electives, but to require programming is idiotic.

There is one way to find out if a man is honest -- ask him. If he says "Yes" you know he is crooked. -- Groucho Marx


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