I am very near the end of Wil Wheaton’s updated/annotated memoir Still Just a Geek, which I bought over the summer on a short family trip. I have lots of thoughts—most of them positive—about the memoir and may write a bit more about it once I finally finish. For now, though, since I wrote last week complaining about companies like Apple and ClassDojo restricting hardware and software to support their bottom line at the expense of users, I was struck by a short passage Wheaton included making a case for general purpose computing:
This is my issue with CS education efforts, especially ’teaching people to code.’ It’s narrowly focused on technical skills and not broader social and ethical reflection. I’d never argue that programmers shouldn’t work for defense contractors, but I’m uncomfortable with associating them so closely with CS education.
link to ‘‘Girls Who Code’ Team Up With Tomahawk Missile Maker Raytheon’
My issue with computer science education isn’t the idea of computer science education—it’s that it’s overwhelmingly driven by workforce and economic concerns instead of concerns related to citizenship and democracy.
Look, I’m not opposed to expanding computer science education, but if the motivation is to fill jobs and keep tech giants thriving, that seems to me to be a red flag. Education ought to focus on democracy above the economy; we need to be producing citizens, not employees. There are ways to teach tech in a way that supports democracy and produces citizens, but if I get grumpy about computer science educstion, it’s because we rarely talk about it that way.