An Open Letter to Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education

From Mediarazzi Founder/CEO Phil Autelitano

Dear Madam Secretary,

It is obvious to me there are a lot of folks in the country who do not like you, who feel you are unqualified for your position, who believe you will do more harm than good for our children, who feel you are a joke, and that you will ultimately fail. In fact, there are many who WANT you to fail, not necessarily because of who you are, but because of who and what you represent to them. But I’m not here to talk about that…

Personally, I don’t know you. I know nothing of your background or your education, and honestly, I don’t care. What I do know — and what I do care about — is that YOU are in a position to make things happen, you have the power to create change, and because of that, I am writing you on behalf of the community I represent, a community that has led the greatest expansion of wealth in our country’s history over the past several decades, an institution that has thrust our great nation to the forefront of innovation and has literally changed the world in more positive ways than we can possibly fathom in a remarkably short period of time.

I’m writing to you on behalf of Technology.

Despite all the haters, you, Madam Secretary, right now have an opportunity to become the greatest Secretary of Education our nation has ever seen —YOU have the power to change the world, with a simple stroke of your pen. You hold in your hands the key that will unlock the door to opportunities for hundreds of thousands of students today, and millions more tomorrow.

That key is Computer Science.

Madam Secretary, if you will, please visit Code.org — a non-profit funded in part by Microsoft, Google, and others, and dedicated to expanding access to Computer Science. Specifically, visit this page: https://code.org/promote and you will discover:

“Computer Science drives innovation throughout the US economy, but it remains marginalized throughout K-12 education.” Computer Science is responsible for more positive change in our world — including positive changes to Education — than anything else, yet our education system does not take it seriously enough.

According to Code.org:

  • Only 33 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation.
  • There are currently 527,169 open computing jobs nationwide.
  • Last year, only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce.
  • The majority of schools do not teach Computer Science. Ninety percent of parents want their children to learn Computer Science but only 40-percent of schools teach it.
  • Seventy-one percent of all new jobs in STEM are in computing, but only EIGHT PERCENT of STEM graduates are in Computer Science.
  • Women who try AP Computer Science in high school are ten times more likely to major in it in college. Black and Hispanic students are seven times more likely.
  • Only seven states have created K-12 Computer Science standards.
  • A Computer Science major will earn 40-percent more on average
  • Computing jobs are the Number One source of new wages in the U.S.

And if I might add, Computer Science and Technology are the driving force of our economy, now and for the future. More opportunities exist within this realm than in any other industry.

Madam Secretary, there are currently more than 500,000 computing job openings, in every industry, in every state — and this is projected to continue to grow at twice the rate of all other jobs. The problem is, our children are not being taught to fill these jobs. They could literally be taught to fill many of them straight out of high school.

Where do these jobs go if our children can’t fill them? The employers have no choice but to bring in immigrants with the required educations and skills to fill them or to outsource these jobs overseas. By not offering ALL of our nation’s students access to Computer Science education, we are in effect, giving jobs away to students in other countries.

While other nations have adopted Computer Science learning standards, our nation is way behind and losing ground fast. While our students learn the same subjects I learned in high school, 25 years ago, including spoken languages they may never use, students in other nations are learning up-to-date computer programming “languages” that result in high-paying jobs.

Computer programming (a/k/a coding) “languages” are easier to learn than traditional, spoken languages. The processes are standardized, cut-and-dry, the tools easy to learn and use, and they are only getting easier — so much easier to learn today than when I learned them 30 years ago — and though they sound “complex,” they do not require, among other things, the various idiosyncracies and complex conjugations that often make spoken languages “difficult” to learn.

Did you know, Madam Secretary, that a computer programming “language” can be learned “fluently,” in as little as 12 weeks, qualifying a student for, at the very least, a high-paying entry level job? Even better, learning computer programming can inspire students to CREATE something new of their own, resulting in new opportunities, and even the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs…

Madam Secretary, you have the opportunity today to make a HUGE difference; to be the Greatest Secretary of Education our nation has ever seen; to make YOUR mark, by simply making Computer Science education mandatory in our schools; by making Computer Science as much as part of our children’s education as Reading, Math, the Arts, and the other Sciences. You can do this, Madam Secretary, with the stroke of your pen.

You, Betsy, have the power to change the world.

Right now, my two children — Bruno, 14, and Gianmichel, 11 — are in their bedrooms coding (that is, learning and programming something, “cool.”) I, like so many other tech-forward parents have taken the initiative to teach them myself what their respective schools are not teaching them. My children are proficient in multiple computer languages, and already have several years of experience, qualifying them for jobs in multiple industries. Not ALL parents have this ability, or the resources, though, to teach their children the skills they need to succeed in the 21st Century. Lord knows our schools aren’t teaching them this.

Imagine if more kids — if EVERY kid — left school with the ability to immediately secure a high-paying computing job or even better, the ability to launch their own business and pave their own way in life, like I — and countless others — have, because we learned Computer Science skills.

Please, Madam Secretary, visit Code.org, learn more about this initiative, join us, and help bring Computer Science to ALL schools, to ALL students, across the nation, and together we can Make America even GREATER.

Show us — and show all those haters — that you mean business; that you are on the cutting-edge of education in America, and that our children’s futures come FIRST and foremost. You don’t have to be a joke Betsy DeVos. I promise you that this one simple change to our education system will catapult you from mediocrity to Champion of both Technology and Education.

I wish you the best in you tenure, but I can only support you if you take this matter seriously, to heart. Do that, and you will not only have my support but the support of the entire Technology community. This matter transcends politics, so many of us are here and willing to help in that respect. Please, reach out…

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely and Respectfully Yours,

Phil Autelitano
Founder/CEO
Mediarazzi
phil@mediarazzi.com

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