Computer programming in the K-12 schools: Is it as important as reading, writing, math and American history?

It’s WAY more important than American history, said the President of Harvey Mudd College, Maria Klawe, during a joint interview with code.org founder Hadi Partovi at the recent Code Conference.

Partovi had asserted that computer programming should be a core skill learned in the K-12 schools, and Klawe chimed in agreeing with Partovi.

Klawe more reasonably noted that we “overproduce” college graduates in biology and chemistry and expressed frustration that women are concentrated in those fields.

Code.org advocates a strategy of allowing computer programming courses to replace math and science courses in the states’ high school graduation requirements.  Twenty-two states, including Florida, have now adopted such legislation.

Despite Klawe’s and Partovi’s frustration at the oversupply of students who major in biology and chemistry in college, the code.org science requirement replacement strategy is much more likely to negatively impact course-taking in high school physics than in biology or chemistry, since many states explicitly require biology for graduation and the course-taking rate for chemistry is about twice that of physics.  The traditional high school science sequence is biology-chemistry-physics, and students who tire of science are most likely to skip out on physics.

It’s worth noting that advances in computing hardware depend on innovations made by engineers, whose discipline is built on physics, and physicists, whose work on quantum computing will provide the basis for the next revolutionary advances in information technology.

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