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3 Reasons Why "Computational Literacy" Is Ruining Coding Education

I was sifting through my Twitter feed recently when I came across the link to a Kickstarter project for a coding education game. The project was a well designed board game that reminded me of parcheesi. Everything from the video, to the design, to the team were excellent. There was just one small problem: the project kept insisting it would teach something called “computational literacy” to players.

For those that haven’t been paying close attention to the learn to code movement, the logic for teaching everyone to code goes something like this:

This is contentious stuff: teaching every kid to program requires that we trade some other discipline in our children’s education [1]. And this is where the term “computation literacy” was born. Those defending the need to teach young children to program don’t have a solid counter-argument when luminaries like Jeff Atwood say that not everyone should learn to program. The oft-used metaphor about everyone driving a car but not everyone needing to be a mechanic is brought up, and the programming advocates are on their heels.

In the past year, however, programming advocates have stumbled upon a phrase that appears to be unassailable: instead of programming, we need to teach our children “Computational Literacy.” Nobody can convincingly argue with the need to improve our children’s grasp of something amorphous and technical-sounding [2], and so programming advocates rally under the computation literacy flag.

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