Posted: October 15th, 2013
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I received an e-mail today about the Hours of Code initiative for this year's CSEdWeek. I have always been very enthusiastic about CSEdWeek and had made plans to participate in some way several times before. But going through the promotional text of this Hours of Code idea truly made me explode in anger, and send them this e-mail which I'm sharing in my blog as I do not expect that single e-mail to change anything but I just don't want to be counted in this madness.
I am an ACM member, and I have always been a fan of CSEdWeek but have never been able to host an event around it. I do have a chance now, but I won't support this Hour of Code idea, because you are doing it _wrong_.
First of all, this phrase: "Hour of Code is intended to demystify computing for people who think programming is hard or requires math" is plain wrong. I would bet even Admiral Grace Hopper would tell you that is plain wrong. Math is fundamental for _good_ programming and that is what we should teach youngsters. Improving CS while stomping on STEM is plain wrong, we better invest our time debunking the myth of Math as a nightmare and teaching the many ways math is applied to _good_ programming.
Second, featuring Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates is of doubtful moral considering all we know about privacy issues where Facebook and Microsoft are deeply involved. I would rather spend time teaching kids about the values of sharing code to learn together, those values promoted by organizations like Free Software Foundation and Electronic Frontier Foundation, who are in the frontlines fighting for a better future for computing. I guess throwing Facebook and Microsoft into a promo kit works better for marketing, but I would do that on activities targeted to audiences with a formed criteria, not on kids that can barely tell wrong from right.
I don't expect you to suddenly bring this whole program to a stop, but I would like you to read this excerpt from Amazing Grace's article in the english Wikipedia - another organization truly making a difference and not cited in the promo kit - and think about what would she have to say about your marketing approach:
"In 1934, she earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale under the direction of Øystein Ore. Her dissertation, New Types of Irreducibility Criteria, was published that same year. Hopper began teaching mathematics at Vassar in 1931, and was promoted to associate professor in 1941."
Today I deeply regret being part of an organization thas has totally lost the focus of advancing computer machinery. We need to grow more innovators that will stand for a better future, not more multimillionaires.