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New York City’s mayor mandates computer science curriculum for public schools

If New York’s Silicon Alley is to compete with California’s Silicon Valley, the Big Apple is going to have to find a way to nurture talent and instill interest in technology from a young age. And now, thanks to New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio’s new computer science mandate, the battle between the two coasts may have just swung a bit in the east’s favor.

On Wednesday, Mayor De Blasio announced that all city public schools will have to offer computer science to all their students within the next decade, and while it will not be a graduation requirement for high schoolers, the change marks a distinct effort to expand computer literacy and further opportunities for New York youth with an increasingly important skill set.

The move comes as part of a broader education plan, which the mayor announced in a comprehensive speech Wednesday evening. Computer science and programming, though, is certainly a major focus for the politician, who noted that, “A computer science education is literacy for the 21st century. When you do find students in computer class, they’re learning word processing or typing when they should be learning how to code.”

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The expansion of computer science classes will be no small undertaking — over the next 10 years, the city plans to spend $81 million to help train a sufficient number of teachers to actually offer the curriculum. As of today, fewer than 10 percent of schools in the city offer any sort of computer science course, and only 1 percent of students manage to graduate having taken such a class.

But with growing concerns over the lack of diversity in the tech industry, particularly when it comes to engineering and programming roles, the need for greater access to these skills is becoming more and more pronounced. Parents certainly seem to be on board with the changes, with parents like Jennifer Rivera telling local CBS2 News, “I do think it’s very important for the kids. [My son] wants to be a scientist when he gets older, so it’ll be awesome for him.”

Another parent, Yakema Brisman, told the news station, “For my kids and considering the changing times, I want them to be able to keep up with it and do it safely.”

So while it may have just been reading, writing, and arithmetic when we were in school, children of the 21st century are receiving an education that is including literacy in a brand new subject — computers.