Code.org, a nonprofit foundation that fosters and promotes computer programming in education, recently released a slick advocacy video featuring some big names in technology, sports and entertainment.
In the video, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, NBA star Chris Bosh, hip-hop artist Will.i.am, Twitter creator Jack Dorsey, and other influential luminaries make the case that coding is a cool critical key to the future. Lesley Chilcott, who produced documentaries such as “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Waiting for Superman,” directed the persuasive 6-minute spot, which makes the point that coding is not just for genius geeks; it’s for everyone.
Founded by brothers Hadi Partovi and Ali Partovi, Code.org is based on the idea that coding is a fundamental digital literacy that anyone can learn. Members of the Code.org board include Marc Andreessen, Ron Conway, Jack Dorsey, Max Levchin, and Drew Houston.
At last, maybe we’re getting somewhere. For all the earnest efforts of schools, libraries and government to promote digital literacy, the pitches tend to be uniformly uninspiring and, well, boring. Digital literacy will keep you safe online. Digital literacy will help you do better in school. Digital literacy will help you get a job. Snore.
Literacy 2.0 needs the sort of amped-up, laser-guided, desire-driven, celebrity-supported propaganda that the video delivers.
The computer science millionaires and billionaires attempt to de-geekify coding. Their pitch is about lifestyle, not vocation: Coding allows you to take charge of your life, to shape your own world, to create, to have fun. Particularly tantalizing are the shots of young software engineers playing video games, riding scooters, jamming in a band, playing ping pong, noshing gourmet food and just chillin’ while at work. The not-so-subtle message: Coding lets you stay on the playground forever.
Toward the end of the video, Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston tells viewers that coding “is the closest thing we have to a superpower.” Now, what kid, 5 to 95, doesn’t want a superpower?
10 PRINT “Sign me up!”