Should everybody learn coding?

In the Introduction to “The Role of Computational Literacy in Computers and Writing”, a line towards the end intrigued me when it quoted Aristotle as saying “people become builders by building”. I agree with that statement, but not necessarily the context of its use. Experience is obviously and integral part of learning, so the struggle of learning to code should be an experiential education. However, I would argue that broadly saying everybody must learn how to code isn’t an accurate assessment. There are professions and disciplines that require more coding than others. There is certainly an argument to be made that coding should be more integral in certain fields, but that’s not true of all disciplines.

For example, I’m an economics major and, in my opinion, coding is a skill that should be learned by all economics majors, regardless of why they are obtaining the degree. The bulk of economics is the creation and adaption of various models to run simulations that accurately depict the behavior of individuals in relation to resources. So as an economics major, I’ve had to do some modeling of various behaviors or use already created models and input data to determine an outcome. One of the more popular programs used by the department is Stata. (There are several others, but most Econ 400 professors will teach Stata. Here’s a link to see what it looks like: Stata isn’t necessarily a coding tool, although it does have some coding features. But it does have its own language, which makes it relatively applicable to this article.

The reason I’m not onboard with broadly saying “everybody should coding” is for two reasons. One, not everybody needs to learn how to code. There are plenty of professions and disciplines that don’t require coding, because their method of communication isn’t related to programming. Two, for the people that should learn to code, there is a wide range of various systems they might need to learn. I learned Stata and that is enough for me to be a good economics major or researcher at an economics firm. However, if I wanted to create my own models, I would need to learn further, which is why I’m in favor of programming becoming a more integral part of the economics field of study. But, I will qualify all of this with the thought that this is something to be reevaluated constantly. The professions and disciplines that I mention don’t need to learn coding currently might change and shift over the next five years. There might come a time when everybody should learn coding, but I don’t think we’ve reached that time.

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1 Response to Should everybody learn coding?

  1. Annie Kingman says:

    Thomas, I agree with you. I think that it is the nature of things that some jobs will require coding and others will not. If it does not pertain to what we are doing for employment then we will not necessarily need to use coding at all. The beauty of what the coders do is that they make it possible for all of us users to have no idea what is going on behind the scenes. This was the evolution of computers, something we have looked at extensively in our study of the evolution media technology. At first, only the coding types could use a computer. Now, they have created usable interfaces so that we can use computers without knowing what drives the processes. We have no idea what brings us from point A to point B on our devices, we just know that it works. Coders call this encapsulation. So, why should we be bothered with knowing how the technical stuff works if we can use a computer functionally without it? The answer to this question also pertains to this one: why should we care if google uses algorithms to direct our search? The answer depends on the context of what we are doing. If I need to know where the closest Chinese food restaurant is, then go ahead Google, use your algorithms. But, if its my job requires me to seek out unbiased research about a certain subject, then I may be more concerned about what goes on behind the scenes.

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