Should everybody learn to code? A PandoDaily meta media mashup of opinion

By Adam L. Penenberg , written on May 7, 2013

From The News Desk

Lots, and I mean lots, has been written about whether we should all learn to code or not. If everyone who wrote about the need for everyone to learn programming actually knew how to program, there wouldn’t be a shortage of programmers.

We sifted through all that opinion so you don’t have to, to bring you a curated mash up of the great coding debate, every sentence taken from someone else. It's the ultimate hyperlinked aggregation, a veritable clickfest. Next time maybe we'll just write an automated script.

There’s a lot of chatter and hype around normals learning how to code. Coding is the hottest skill on the job market, the modern-day language of creativity, and a powerful force in the economy. As technology becomes more and more ingrained in our everyday lives, you have to make a choice: Are you a consumer of tech, or are you someone who understands it? Learning to code helps people build a deeper understanding of the world around them and can help them to automate and improve their daily lives. Even if you never touch code after learning how, you’ll never regret that glimpse into how our technology world works. Program or be programmed.

I believe that learning basic programming skills should be on every kid’s educational agenda. Maybe instead of teaching young children to write in cursive – a skill nobody needs – they should be taught some basic programming concepts. The biggest names in technology want today's children to learn computer programming. Forget trying to become a doctor or rapper or a football star, not to mention all the teasing you may get in school for being a nerd – computers are where it's at. You don't have to be a genius to code -- and that if you learn to code, you'll be a hero like [Chris] Bosh or get to eat free food at Facebook. “It’s the Closest Thing We Have To a Super Power." Even geezers can learn.

OK, I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea. The whole "everyone should learn programming" meme has gotten so out of control that the mayor of New York City actually vowed to learn to code in 2012. Recently, my brother – who I affectionately describe as someone whose biggest dream is to be rich and will look into any scheme (albeit legitimate and legal) to get rich quick, whether they’re shady entrepreneurial partnerships or plans to “beat the house” in blackjack or poker – came to me saying “I want to be like you, I want to program.”

I’m not completely sold on the fact that everyone should. It’s basically impossible to become an expert, or even objectively “good,” at any truly demanding task with only weekly, anonymous e-instruction over the course of a year. The "everyone should learn to code" movement isn't just wrong because it falsely equates coding with essential life skills like reading, writing, and math. Most people can't learn to program: between 30% and 60% of every university computer science department's intake fail the first programming course.

Rather, everyone should learn to program, but not everyone should be a programmer. I actually do think people should learn to code, at least a little -- just as you learn a little chemistry, biology and math in school. Coding, by itself, has never been about writing a bunch of gibberish on the screen but more about solving real-world problems. "Code" is just a convenient and press-friendly way to say "think in algorithms, think about problems, think about how things fit together." Many content producers use technology virtually every waking hour of their life, and they don't know a variable from an identifier, or an integer from a string.

The fact is, the whole world should not learn to code anymore than all of us should learn to be a space shuttle engine designer or a lawyer. The future of the world is in software but not necessarily the tools used to make that software. The machines are coming for our jobs, and one of those jobs is writing code.

I would also gently point out that not everyone is cut out to be a programmer and many of the people in computer science have what I might gently call "communication issues."


1. "Why learning to code isn’t as important as learning to build something," by Jake Levine, Nieman Journalism Lab, Mar. 13, 2013.

2. "Why Everyone Should Learn to Code: An Event Recap," by Madeline McSherry, Slate, Mar. 29, 2013.

3. "Why every single one of you should learn a little code," by Jolie O'Dell, VentureBeat, Sep. 17, 2012.

4. "Codecademy Founder: Why Everyone Should Learn Programming," by Zach Sims, Time, Jun. 8, 2012.

5. "Should Everyone Learn to Code?" by Chris Taylor, Wired, Feb. 28, 2013.

6. Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age, by Douglas Rushkoff, Soft Skull Press, Sep. 2011.

7. "Everybody should learn how to code," by Dennis Wetzig,, Mar. 9, 2013.

8. " Says 'Hello, World' to Get Everybody Coding," by Glen Tickle, Geekosystem, Jan. 22, 2013.

9. "Technology superstars ask kids to code," Breaking News English, March 1, 2013.

10. "Gates, Zuckerberg: Kids, learn to code," by Brandon Griggs, CNN, Mar. 7, 2013.

11. "Zuckerberg and Gates join the learn-to-code movement," by Jennifer Van Grove, CNET, Feb. 26, 2013.

12. "It’s the Closest Thing We Have To a Super Power,"by Gail Poulin,, Feb. 27, 2013.

13. "Want to be a reporter? Learn to code," by Barb Darrow, gigaom, Sep. 5, 2012.

14. "HTTP: Response Codes," by Karl Dubost,, Sep. 12, 2012.

15. "Please Don't Learn to Code," by Jeff Atwood, Coding Horror, May 15, 2012.

16. "Programming Is Not for Everybody," by Robert Smith, Symbo1ics Ideas, Mar. 3, 2013.

17. "Everyone Should Learn To Code (Whatever 'Code' Means)" by Tom McFarlin,, Mar. 11, 2013.

18. "Can you learn to code in a year? Maybe, but should you?" by Matthew Murray, ExtremeTech, Jan. 13, 2012.

19. "Please Don't Learn to Code," by Jeff Atwood, Gizmodo, May 15, 2012.

20. "Separating Programming Sheep from Non-Programming Goats," by Jeff Atwood, Coding Horror, Jul. 14, 2006.

21. "I'd rather be coding," by mats,, Dec. 28, 2011.

22. "Everyone Should Learn To Program, But Not Everyone Should Be A Programmer," by John Sonmez, Making the Complex Simple, Mar. 31, 2013.

23. "Why you should learn to code," by Dave Winer, Scripting News, Feb. 27, 2013.

24. "7 Reasons Why Everyone Must Learn To Code," by Radford C., LazyTechGuys, Feb 26, 2013.

25. "Programming's not for you? How about thinking? Be empowered," by Scott Hanselman,, Mar. 4, 2013.

26. "Is Learning to Code More Popular Than Learning a Foreign Language?" by Jamie Condliffe, Gizmodo, Mar. 28, 2012.

27. "Why Everyone Should NOT Learn To Code," by Martyr2, Coders Lexicon, Feb. 28, 2013.

28. "The Learn-to-Code Bubble," by Tommy Leung, Super Tommy, Apr. 26, 2013.

29. "Not Everyone Should Learn to Code," by D.M. Rutherford,, Apr. 3, 2013.

30. "Should All Students Learn to Code?" by Melissa Westbrook, Seattle Schools Community Forum, Feb. 26, 2013.