Coding and creativity

To RSA to see an empassioned and excellent talk by Tom Armitage as part of BBC radio 4’s For thought series.

His argument – teach code  in schools

But not because as Michael Gove has it – to “stay competitive in the global economy”

But because code is one of the unpinning grammars of life now.

To be truly literate now you need not just to be able to read but also write. Children should not just be trained in technology but rather introduced to code and allow to play with it and discover what is possible. They need to be able to both read and write in code.

As John Naughton pithily put it –  you would not want your children to have sex training at schools so why would you want them to have IT training. What you need is education.

(An earlier grammar, latin, tells us the true meaning of education. It is is from “e duco” – I lead out or i bring out. Children need learn code in order to bring out the best in them- to enable and empower them. My daughters “IT training” at school  seemed to consist of getting her to build a database-which is just fine if she is doing a vocational course in marketing or business studies)

In other words Tom wants to rescue code from a merely utilitarian ghetto.”Computer Science”, as it is called in our universities, is not just left brain and rational. It is creative too – understanding the grammar of computers empowers you to create your own IP and not use other people’s systems.

The argument is really another skirmish in CP Snow’s two cultures debate – Snow argued that the breakdown of communication between the “two cultures” of modern society – the sciences and the humanities – was a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems. Code is not just for the geeks and nerds  (who are doing things that our arts educated and lawyerly elites perhaps don’t really understand? I may be underestimating Mr Gove..)

And of course, this is of value to the economy. The games industry, which is dynamic and profitable for UKplc, is the product of the coming together of arts and science, of storytelling, design and graphics along with the writing of code.  Tom  pointed out that  Steve Job’s vision for desirable and user friendly devices was influenced by his love of calligraphy. Art and science again. If you teach code who knows what new ideas (and new IP) will be created-perhaps a whole new industry. 20 years ago you would not have guessed that gaming would be so big.

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