There was a time in our past when reading and writing were a luxury reserved only for the rich and the well-educated. Now, it is freely accepted that the ability to read and write is the rule, rather than the exception. Or at least it should be.
But there is a new movement afoot that is pushing the idea that literacy should also include the ability to program. ReadWriteWeb describes this concept in a great blog post. Proponents of programming as a measure of literacy explain that we are rapidly moving to a standard of interaction that rates the communications between man and machine and machine and machine at equal importance as communications between man and man. He or she who can master machine language will control two-thirds (or thereabouts) of the flow of information.
Others argue that it is more important to master fundamental communication before worrying about coding and mastering the ability to speak machine. In other words, learn to read, write, perform math, and hold a conversation, as the article quotes StackOverflow.com creator Jeff Atwood.
I think there are good reasons for embracing all forms of communication. Whether we measure a person’s literacy by their ability to code or whether we relegate coding to vocational status is largely irrelevant. If you want to maintain a degree of control over the new communication landscape that includes conversations with and between machines, then there is plenty of reason to learn to code. At the very least, perhaps we should view coding as another “foreign” language to be offered to young children in school, along with French, German, Spanish, Latin and English. At the very least, children should be given the opportunity and be encouraged to learn so that they can more readily engage in these machine-based conversations in meaningful, active ways rather than passively watch the end result flow by on their computer and smartphone screens. If the means and methods of communication are controlled by a small group of interpreters, then much of the conversation may be lost.
I started my love affair with computers learning how to code in Basic language. When I wanted to make changes to my web pages and blog, I taught myself enough HTML and CSS to get the job done. Why not? If you are interested in learning to code yourself, check out Codeacademy, a great project by a couple of guys who tired of the difficult process of learning to code. The site simplifies learning and makes coding fun.