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Coding is a New Foundational Skill

The following is adapted from Read Write Code.

For many people, when they hear something about technology or code, everything sounds like mumbo jumbo and gobbledygook.

I’ve met a lot of people who feel too intimidated to get started exploring coding.

And that’s ok — you haven’t learned it yet. But I’m here to tell you that you can understand all this. And, quite honestly, in this day and age, you really don’t have an option not to.

Computers aren’t going anywhere. They are becoming increasingly regular parts of our lives. Reading and writing are essential skills, and now coding is too.

Reading and Writing Weren’t Always Considered Foundational Skills

Today, we see reading and writing as crucial skills. However, that wasn’t always the case. Go back 500 years, and reading and writing were skills reserved only for the elite. Most people didn’t think they needed reading and writing.

However, when Gutenberg created the printing press around 1440, everything changed. This innovation laid the groundwork for the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and then massive increases in literacy from 1600–1800 in Europe.

What’s now obvious — the usefulness of literacy, of being able to read and write — was not a thing in 1400. But there was a tectonic shift with the printing press — with literacy — and we see how this new access to information changed society and education.

The changes brought about by Gutenberg and the printing press are analogous to where we are today with code, computers, and the internet.

Coding is Becoming a Part of Basic Literacy

Now, with the invention of computers and the rise of the internet, we are at the tipping point of this same trend. Most people don’t know coding or see how it is useful to them. There is a small group of people who do know how to code and have access to the opportunity it presents.

Coding is to computers and the internet as reading and writing are to the printing press — crucial new skills enabled by transformative and society-shifting technology. We’re in the year 1500 for computers.

This is the way things are going. Code isn’t a language on the side anymore; it’s the engine behind technology.

We expect people to know how to read and write, but you don’t need to become a professional reader or a professional writer to find those skills useful. Reading and writing are foundational skills that we expect students to learn and adults to know. It’s part of basic literacy and crucial to being able to contribute to day-to-day life as an active citizen.

Now that we live in a technology-driven world, coding is a new foundational skill. Just like the printing press transformed access to reading and writing and basic literacy, computers and the internet are transforming the access and requirement to know coding as part of the world of technology.

You can find Read Write Code on Amazon.

Jeremy Keeshin is the CEO and co-founder of CodeHS, the leading coding education platform for schools used by millions of students. He is an expert in computer science education and education technology, and he has visited hundreds of schools all over the world. Prior to starting CodeHS, he taught computer science at Stanford. Keeshin is an avid comedy fan, juggler, and traveler. He lives in Chicago.

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