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Programming, Education, and the American Dream

February 10, 2015

Programming, Education, and the American Dream

Programming, Education, and the American Dream by Liz
Published November 18, 2014 in Programming

The learn to code movement has popularized the idea that coding is a skill everyone can learn. It's the American dream: learn the desirable skill and you'll succeed financially. I'll discuss the history of the American Dream, how new programming education endeavors have repackaged it, and how the lack of awareness and analysis of this privileged rhetoric is damaging our culture and workforce.


February 10, 2015

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  1. Four things: 1. Startup success stories 2. National attention 3.

    Availability of curriculum 4. Lower barrier to entry for new technologies LEARN TO CODE MOVEMENT
  2. http:/ /www.forbes.com/sites/afontevecchia/2014/10/02/the-new-forbes-400-self-made-score-from-silver-spooners-to-boostrappers/ “This year, we gave each member of The

    Forbes 400 a score on a scale from 1 to 10 — a 1 indicating the fortune was completely inherited, while a 10 was for a Horatio Alger-esque journey. We also did the analysis for every 10 years going back to 1984. Looking at the numbers over time, the data lead us to an interesting insight: in 1984, less than half of people on The Forbes 400 were self-made; today, 69% of the 400 created their own fortunes.” STARTUP SUCCESS STORIES
  3. New in-person courses Expensive development courses begin offering short (9

    week) or long (6-9 month) programs AVAILABILITY OF CURRICULUM
  4. Emphasis on user experience, responsive design, and mobile Approaching software

    based on your interests instead of your skills LOWER BARRIER TO ENTRY
  5. It turns out that learning to code is not the

    same as programming. ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  6. Writing code is nothing more than typing using a prescribed

    set of rules. ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  7. Becoming a good writer involves learning from others who have

    done it before you. So does being a good coder. ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  8. When you say: “it’s easy” what you think you mean

    is: “it’s easy, I did it, and so can you.” ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  9. But what it sounds like to me is: “it's easy,

    I did it, and if you can't, that's your fault.” ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  10. Phrases like this place the onus for learning on the

    student, attributing no responsibility to the individual or institution uttering the phrase. ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  11. Different students do not excel or fail because of innate

    abilities. Student success is dependent on their educational foundation and opportunities. ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  12. Then: our recent past “Leveling”: placing students at their current

    level instead of challenging them with more difficult material. EDUCATION IN AMERICA
  13. ‘Teachers used a technique called "leveled instruction." Palmer describes it

    as "an approach to literacy in which students spend the vast majority of their time in a text that is at their reading level. So if a student is in fifth grade and they're reading at a third-grade level, they spend most of their day reading texts at a third-grade level.”’ http:/ /www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/11/11/356357971/common-core-reading-the-new-colossus EDUCATION IN AMERICA
  14. “The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards

    in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.” http:/ /www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/ EDUCATION IN AMERICA
  15. “The trouble always starts when teachers are told to put

    innovative ideas into practice without much guidance on how to do it. In the hands of unprepared teachers, the reforms turn to nonsense, perplexing students more than helping them.” http:/ /www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/magazine/why-do-americans-stink-at-math.html EDUCATION IN AMERICA
  16. Common core isn’t the solution It doesn’t address disparity in

    educational quality or drop out rates. It’s a band aid for a bad educational system. EDUCATION IN AMERICA
  17. Top 5 STEM high schools The top 5 STEM schools

    educate 5,711 students nationally. STUDENT DEMOGRAPHICS
  18. Top 5 STEM Schools Asian American: 50% 2 Or More

    Races: 3% Hispanic: 7% Black: 2% Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0.3% Native American: 0.2% White: 36%
  19. But what about the worst schools? Turns out no one

    wants to talk about them. EDUCATION IN AMERICA
  20. National Literacy: 8th Grade Scoring below “Basic” Percentage of Students

    36% 40% 44% Black Hispanic Native American Impoverished
  21. The important question becomes: Why are we pushing to incorporate

    computer science into public schools if so many students don’t meet the standards for reading and math? EDUCATION IN AMERICA
  22. The important question becomes: Why are we letting industry trends

    dictate what we teach children? EDUCATION IN AMERICA
  23. Coined at beginning of the Great Depression, “the dream [was]

    not only our most precious national possession but our unique contribution to the civilization of the world.” The Epic of America (1931), James Truslow Adams AMERICAN DREAM
  24. “Coming to America with nothing and becoming rich because of

    your own will to succeed.” AMERICAN DREAM
  25. “I’m not sure, but it seems like a lot of

    rich white men know what it is and they don’t want to share it.” AMERICAN DREAM
  26. The Epic of America (1931), James Truslow Adams “The dream

    is a vision of a better, deeper, richer life for every individual, regardless of the position in society which he or she may occupy by the accident of birth. It has been a dream of a chance to rise in the economic scale, but quite as much, or more than that, of a chance to develop our capacities to the full, unhampered by unjust restrictions of caste or custom.” AMERICAN DREAM
  27. The American Dream is about individual achievement and unlocking your

    potential, barriers be damned. AMERICAN DREAM
  28. http:/ /www.forbes.com/sites/afontevecchia/2014/10/02/the-new-forbes-400-self-made-score-from-silver-spooners-to-boostrappers/ “Over the past 30 years, the number of

    Forbes 400 members who forges their own path, using entrepreneurial capitalism as a means to attain a vast fortune, has increased dramatically. This tells us many things, but one should stand taller than the rest: the American Dream, it seems, is alive and well.” AMERICAN DREAM
  29. Our industry loves the self-starter, the autodidactic learner. It’s in

    our roots, our very foundation. ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  30. Increasing barriers to entry Due to rising popularity, CS majors

    are implementing GPA requirements for admittance into the major ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  31. You can’t learn to code if you don’t have the

    right tools. ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  32. To succeed as an industry, we have to stop expecting

    people to be able to teach themselves. ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  33. Can you say “anyone can learn to code” to… a

    person with a developmental disability? ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  34. Can you say “anyone can learn to code” to… a

    person without a home? ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  35. Can you say “anyone can learn to code” to… a

    person who doesn’t speak English & lives in America? ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  36. Can you say “anyone can learn to code” to… a

    single parent with no time for themselves? ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  37. Just like the American Dream, the Learn to Code movement

    isn’t really for everyone. ANYONE CAN LEARN TO CODE
  38. Silicon Valley leads U.S. as early startup funding hits 2-year

    high “Research firm CB Insights said there was more than $1.2 billion invested last month, up 56 percent from last October [2013].” http:/ /www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2014/11/17/silicon-valley-leads-u-s-as-early-startup-funding.html BOOTCAMPS, STARTUPS, BIG $
  39. “…98% job placement rate 90 days after graduating and a

    $110,000 average annual salary.” Hack Reactor http:/ /www.fastcompany.com/3023456/become-an-ios-developer-in-8-weeks-the-truth-about-hack-schools BOOTCAMPS, STARTUPS, BIG $
  40. “…graduates typically net starting salaries upwards of $70,000…” Flatiron School

    http:/ /www.businessinsider.com/flatiron-school-coding-program-2013-4?op=1 BOOTCAMPS, STARTUPS, BIG $
  41. The dream isn't broken, unobtainable, or privileged, it's for everyone,

    so you must be the problem. BOOTCAMPS, STARTUPS, BIG $
  42. Small changes make a difference: 1. Set realistic expectations for

    job and skill seekers 2. Improve schools by supporting education-focused initiatives 3. Cut the hype 4. Don’t buy into the hype WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
  43. The American Dream should be a positive thing that any

    child can achieve, not just the privileged.