Obama’s big ask: $4 billion for computer science in schools

Are we going computer science overboard?

President Barack Obama’s announcement that he was asking Congress to spend billions for computer science education in U.S. schools adds more fuel to the nation’s push for coding in schools.

In his weekly radio address, Obama outlined “Computer Science for All,” a program that would pore money into elevating computer science into a basic skill taught in schools, right up there with reading, writing and math. Only one-fourth of K-12 schools offer computer science education, he said.

The proposal — $4 billion for grants to states and $100 million for competitive grants — comes as there is increasing attention on teaching computer science at schools. The money is part of Obama’s federal budget proposal for 2017 that will go to Congress on Feb. 9.

In December, Obama signed a law that recognizes computer science as part of a “well-rounded education.”

Companies such as Microsoft have contributed money and resources to expand CS in schools. And events such as Code.org’s Hour of Code have received more attention from schools, students, elected officials and companies than ever before, as I wrote.

Even Cartoon Network is getting into the action, with a $30 million creative coding program, the White House blogged.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg cheered the news in his own post:

The White House just announced its plan to give more students the opportunity to learn to code in schools. This is an…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Saturday, January 30, 2016

But with so many public schools struggling to offer and deliver true basics to many students, could computer science education be the edu-fad of the decade? School districts are political animals as well as service providers — they respond to what’s hot at the moment.

It’s an important concern. But the truth is that the new emphasis on computer science taps into students’ genuine excitement about technology. And it is true that learning to code will be essential for many supposed non-technology jobs in the future, as Obama put it:

Today’s auto mechanics aren’t just sliding under cars to change the oil. They’re working on machines that run on as many as 100 million lines of code. That’s 100 times more than the Space Shuttle. Nurses are analyzing data and managing electronic health records. Machinists are writing computer programs.

Updated with Zuckerberg’s post.

Above: President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)


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  • Osama bin Login

    This is a good idea and long overdue. Too bad that half the country will try to do the opposite, just cuz Obama is black.