It’s time to revise the three R’s of education — I mean, come on, they don’t even all start with the letter “R” as it stands. But technicalities aside, it’s becoming increasingly clear that our increasingly technical world is making another skill just as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic — programming. And now, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is calling for computer science and coding classes to be a graduation prerequisite.
“Just make it a requirement,” he said of coding during a tech policy event sponsored by The Washington Post. “I am fine with Common Core. We adopted it in the city, one of the first cities to do it. I’m great. [But] you need this skill — national policy. Make it a high-school graduation requirement.” Come on, federal government. You heard the man.
Mayor Emanuel has already taken strides to implement this requirement in Chicago schools by 2018, but his city is just one of many in the United States. “[Students] need to know this stuff,” he continued. Whereas computers and computer science were not as ubiquitous in previous generations, computer literacy and a basic understanding of coding is quickly becoming not only an excellent resume line, but perhaps even a resume necessity. “In the way that I can get by kind of being OK by it, they can’t,” the mayor concluded.
In Emanuel’s Chicago plan, coding classes would replace a math, science or foreign language credit. After all, much of programming draws upon similar skill sets as those found in other quantitative fields, and as a language, one could certainly argue that a fluency in Java is a bit more useful than fluency in Latin (not that knowing your roots isn’t important, too). While Emanuel didn’t offer any advice as to what a federally implemented policy would look like, it seems safe to assume that it would closely mirror the smaller-scale Chicago scenario.
He certainly has a supporter in the form of President Barack Obama, under whom Emanuel previously served as chief of staff. Obama himself has been a vocal supporter of programs like code.org, appearing in a promotional video for the non-profit, and has also emphasized the importance of bringing computer science into classrooms across the U.S. So who knows — in a few years, you may have to be able to produce “Hello, world” in order to actually say hello to the world post high school.