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Coding as the Next Skilled Blue-Collar Work

I often get asked why I teach coding to high-school juniors and seniors.

“Why go through the pain of pushing over-hyper teens to learn something so difficult? After all, thinking critically and problem solving is hard enough without having to learn code syntax and the idiosyncrasies of a compiler/IDE. Why not leave the coding for the colleges to teach?”.

I could have simply said these questions were products of an outdated thought process and left it at that, but I wanted to get to the root of why people (especially the traditional blue collar workers) were not more accepting of coding in a high school setting. After a bit of research and some interesting conversations, I came across the following article from Wired that addressed this topic perfectly. Suddenly, many of the mental roadblocks people were having made sense, the first being the romanticizing of coding. We like to think of coders as very specific types of people. In reality, a coder can be anyone: young, old, from the country, even those bad at math. The second misconception is that coding can only be learned at college, or requires some degree.

I encourage you to read the short article: https://www.wired.com/2017/02/programming-is-the-new-blue-collar-job/

“Politicians routinely bemoan the loss of good blue-collar jobs. Work like that is correctly seen as a pillar of civil middle-class society. And it may yet be again. What if the next big blue-collar job category is already here—and it’s programming? What if we regarded code not as a high-stakes, sexy affair, but the equivalent of skilled work at a Chrysler plant?

Among other things, it would change training for programming jobs—and who gets encouraged to pursue them. As my friend Anil Dash, a technology thinker and entrepreneur, notes, teachers and businesses would spend less time urging kids to do expensive four-year computer-­science degrees and instead introduce more code at the vocational level in high school. You could learn how to do it at a community college; midcareer folks would attend intense months-long programs like Dev Bootcamp.”

Below are the responses of some of my students on the issue:

Do you think programming degrees are necessary to get a job coding?  

  1. Yes, to prove what you are doing.
  2. I think a programming degree would not be necessary if you already learned all the material you need to know to code. Some people learn all that material on their own or from some other external source like a high school class.
  3. Not if you can prove that you know how to code very well.
  4. Yes. It’s either that or you could just show them proof that I have had experience coding before.
  5. I would say most of the time they would be. But maybe if you're a really good coder you may not need one.
  6. No, I think that there used to be a requirement to get a degree in some sort of computer science degree, but now there isn't since the ability to learn how to code has become much more accessible than it used to be, and now places are typically looking for people who can prove that they know how to code.


Do you plan to go to college after high school?

Yes - 12, No - 3


If you could, would go to a coding specific vocational school to learn coding instead?

  1. I don't think it really matters. To me, honestly as long as I'm learning it, I'm okay.
  2. I would love that over college.
  3. It would depend on what they are teaching and what I already learned, including what I remember and what would I learn from it, as well as what I would continue to learn there.
  4. Maybe.
  5. I probably wouldn't go to a vocational school for coding over college, but only because I want to go to college for the experience of going to college, not necessarily the learning aspect. It would be nice to go to a vocational school for coding because you could (most likely, I'm not really sure how they work) skip all of the four-year school stuff like gen-eds, which can be annoying if you're looking for a way to learn how to do something in less than four years and then get a job relatively quickly. In some ways it can be easier and faster to become certified in something rather than getting a degree in something.


Do you think your parents/guardians could learn how to code?

  1. If they truly wanted to learn then I do feel they could, of course. It would depend on their will-power and liking of it.
  2. If they really wanted to, then yes.
  3. I absolutely think that my parents would be able to learn how to code. It’s just like me learning it; just takes some time and thinking.
  4. Yes, I think my mom would pick up on syntax fairly easy, but maybe not the concepts as much.
  5. I’m not sure. I think it’s amazing, but then again it is sometimes difficult but there could be a slight possibility, but I don’t see it happening.
  6. I would say probably not.
  7. My mom probably could, but not my dad.


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