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ACM Opinion

Seriously, Stop Trying to Teach Toddlers How to Code

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Young children in class.

Coding isnt a language, its a skill. You cannot make your toddler trilingual in English, German, and Scratch.

Credit: Martyn Aim/Getty Images

As a baby nerd, I was obsessed with Hackers. The 1995 cult movie followed Dade Murphy, who banded together with his fellow computer-savvy outcasts to expose a nefarious embezzlement scheme perpetrated by a rogue hacker at the supercorp Ellingson Mineral. It was the first time that I'd ever seen the message that it was cool to be smart.

The movie holds up surprisingly well: It still makes me want to shout "Hack the Planet!" while sticking it to the Man, and then go Rollerblading around Manhattan. One part does seem a little off, though. When, as an 11-year-old, Dade gets in trouble for a cyberattack that crashes a bunch of computers and tanks the stock market, the court forbids him from using a computer until he turns 18. And his parents uphold the ban!

To do the same in 2019 might come off as child abuse. We're told there are few skills more important for kids to learn these days than computer literacy—and we're supposed to take that word, literacy, at face value. Legislators in Maryland and Florida have argued that because programming uses computer languages, learning it should fulfill the foreign-language requirements for graduating high school. Extending this logic, we're led to believe that the earlier one's children are exposed to coding, the more fluent they'll become.


From Wired
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