For the last few years we’ve been hearing a good many people (most of them computer programmers) say that every child should learn to code. As I write these words, I learn that Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, has echoed that counsel. Learning to code is a nice thing, I suppose, but should be far, far down on our list of priorities for the young. Coding is a problem-solving skill, and few of the problems that beset young people today, or are likely to in the future, can be solved by writing scripts or programs for computers to execute. I suggest a less ambitious enterprise with broader applications, and I’ll begin by listing the primary elements of that enterprise. I think every young person who regularly uses a computer should learn the following:
how to choose a domain name
how to buy a domain
how to choose a good domain name provider
how to choose a good website-hosting service
how to find a good free text editor
how to transfer files to and from a server
how to write basic HTML, including links to CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) files
how to find free CSS templates
how to fiddle around in those templates to adjust them to your satisfaction
how to do basic photograph editing
how to cite your sources and link to the originals
how to use social media to share what you’ve created on your own turf rather than create within a walled factory
One could add considerably to this list, but these, I believe, are the rudimentary skills that should be possessed by anyone who wants to be a responsible citizen of the open Web—and not to be confined to living on the bounty of the digital headmasters.
Even just the first half of Jacobs’ list would be a better use of time and effort than all the “Everyone needs to learn to code!” stuff.