As a child growing up in the 80s and 90s, I was told that education provided the keys to the world. Work hard in school and education can pave the way to whatever you want. This came not only from my parents, but from educators, and society as a whole. When we talk about "bettering" ourselves, there is a ton of pride in how that relates to education and career goals. Going to college once all but guaranteed a job as well as statistically increased average salaries.
Well meaning politicians and advocates fought fiercely for programs that helped with scholarships and to help create a path to college in which one's class or background or family's educational history would not hold them back. Upon graduating from high school in 2000, loans seemed to be the magical answer for many to pursue what they wanted - be it for an in-state tuition (which adds up quickly) to those taking out $150k+ loans to attend private universities.
Meanwhile, as I watch our country and the world fight over race and religion, it sometimes feels like nothing has changed from the news reports from when I was a kid. Not that we haven't made major strides in equality from the workplace to marriage licenses, but all agree we have a long way to go.
I look at the strife in the U.S. and abroad and many also agree that this comes down to inequality for basic needs and income. Empower people and give them access to what they need at fundamental levels. Give them the chance to truly achieve and move ahead. We were told Education is the answer, and no doubt, that is a huge part of it. However sadly, as more and more stories reveal, a scholarship may not be enough to solve society's problems. Many students put into that situation are at a disadvantage from others for various reasons. Whether they're going to bed hungry at night (seriously) or didn't realize they could ask their professors for one on one time as opposed to their classmates who went to college prep high schools as I read yesterday in The New York Times.
Traditional education is a great start to give everyone a fair chance, but clearly isn't enough. Meanwhile, we have a shortage of programmers in what truly is a whole new world. I run a start-up called Dreamfuel and am very up front that I am not a technical founder. I have plenty of other strengths to lead the company with. But coding is an obvious and specific skill that is of course crucial to the tech world, which more often than not, is just becoming the world.
I recently took a basic coding class to deepen my vocabulary, understanding and empathy with our technical team. Just like little kids soaking up a foreign language, the basics we learned in a 101 fashion was something that was made for kids. Code your name, code a color, etc. Not to mention that like most children, I loved figuring things out as a kid. One's mind is a sponge and not clouded or molded into who we are as adults yet. It used to be the cool thing to have one's kid learn a foreign language. As Google Translate and similar platforms evolve, we will all be of one language at some point. Yes, that is sad with regard to the beauty and culture of languages, but no one is taking that away. Just like the digital era hasn't killed vinyl, those who love it, will seek it out. But for the rest of us? There are ever developing languages of code to learn and create within.
How do we really give kids a shot who might be the first in their family to break out of poverty? Teach them how to code. Start young. Make it fun. Kids can graduate from HIGH SCHOOL into 100k/year jobs if they are into it and want to. Teach people who need a viable skill instead of racking them with debt on a major they may not be entirely sure of when they enroll in the first place.
I love college. I love education. When I was a kid, I thought that if I was a trust fund baby, I would get as many degrees as possible because I loved learning as much. And that's great for those who want to pursue that path. But for the kid looking to get out, to really have options, to be a part of the future and help their family - learn to code. By supporting organizations such as Code.Org, Yes We Code, NYC Gen Tech and others who are instilling these skills into kids at a young age - where they can soak it up and become second nature, we are empowering our youth and future generations. Yes, let's take breaks to read and exercise and interact with our fellow humans. But if you want to change the world? Start by getting coding education into grade schools, particularly in low income neighborhoods. Students who are drawn to it may find themselves graduating high school into a lucrative job instead of racking up debt via loans or feeling lost even if they receive traditional educational help. I can't wait to see what this type of thinking produces for both individuals and our societies around the globe.
By Emily White
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