Arguments about education are always ideological, of course, and they tend toreflect the ideologies of their time. Arguments about literacy may serve as
uniquely effective ciphers of their time because of literacy’s central role in
learning and society. For those of us who promote and study literacy, itsideologies are particularly important for us to acknowledge
even, I would argue,to the extent that literacy is used as a powerful metaphor for other skills, likecomputer programming. Although I may not be able to fully answer the questionabout what this new mass literacy campaign for computer programming
, Iwant to draw our attention to its ideologies so that we might understand our role,even our complicity, in shaping them.
start by reviewing some of the history of how programming has been promotedas a kind of literacy from the 1960s to the present.
I’ll note a few examples of the
nant ideologies I’ve seen as I’ve tracked these promotional trends andfigures. As I do so, you’ll hear me use the word
to refer to theliteracy of computer programming. The promotion of computer programming goesby many names
computational thinking, procedural literacy, etc. I use the term
to refer to all of these, in order to capture the connection of programming to procedures
rather than the device of the computer
andto note the connection many people have drawn to literacy.Before moving into the history, though, I want to look at a contemporarycampaign for computer programming from Code.org. Code.org is a venturecapital-backed non-profit foundation focused on promoting computerprogramming education, and will be a central focus of this analysis. With an
advisory board that reads like a who’s who in Silicon Valley start
-ups, code.org israpidly becoming the highest profile sponsor of the mass programming movement.The following clip is from a video they put out in February 2013.[[Code.org: clip of girl explaining programming to Facebook engineer]]
That was just a taste of the current movement to promote programming as a newmass literacy.
Let’s go back to the beginning.
Although they appear to be accelerating now, calls for programming as a form of literacy actually began as early as the 1960s
long before the personal computerrevolution made them seem very feasible. At a 1961 conference at MIT called
s and the World of the Future,
computer engineer Alan Perlis