Demystify Technology

Janice Jackson, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, during Recode and MSNBC’s interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook:

But, to answer your question, yes — everybody has to code in Chicago because it’s a graduation requirement. I want to be clear on that.

The goal is not to turn 380,000 students into computer scientists, but really to demystify technology, and to make sure that they understand that this is a language, and these are skills that transcend disciplines; that they can use it in math courses — they can use the logic that they learn in any course that they’re taking. It really is about bringing in the type of robust learning that we see in schools around the country to every school in Chicago.

When I first heard about it— I’m former history teacher, so I couldn’t imagine what that would look like in my classroom 15 or 20 years ago. But the teachers are really embracing it. Through the training that we’re going to offer our teachers at North Western through Apple support is just amazing. It’ll demystify coding — not only for the students, but for the adults. I know at Escuela — we were just over here chatting about how the students are teaching the teachers. I think as adults we’re coming into this and learning the importance and it’s being driven by the technology. But it’s mostly being driven by the demand from our students. They learn differently and they are asking us to catchup with the 21st century.

One of my biggest regrets is not leaning into programming in high school.

In middle-school, I found it fascinating. But, during high school, caught up somewhere between punk ethos and popularity, I opted out of taking programming courses. I always felt like I’d get my ass kicked for taking a computer programming course. However, that didn’t stop me from enrolling in the chess club and taking AP physics, calculus, and government. Such is the confusion of high school identity.

Needless to say, programming was not required. It fills me with joy to learn that it is required in Chicago. Technology is as fundamental as history, math, and writing. It goes beyond revamping home economics. Everyone should learn to code, just as everyone should learn algebra and about World War II. It doesn’t mean they’ll be forced into computer science any more than they’ll be forced to become mathematicians or historians, but they’ll be better equipped to problem solve and understand how the world around them works.