Elementary students in Baltimore, Md with U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith. White House photo
President Obama with students at a recent ‘Hour of Code’ event. White House photo
By MEGAN SMITH
U.S. Chief Technology Officer
Growing up in Buffalo, New York, I was lucky to have teachers in my local public school who found creative and exciting ways to introduce me to all of the STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) disciplines. Hands-on experiences with innovative technology built my confidence and skills for the future and helped me understand that STEM, especially computer science, could be used to make the world a better place.
The President’s bold new proposal will empower students from kindergarten through high school to learn computer science, equipping them with the analytical skills they need to be creators in the digital economy, not just consumers, and to apply their passion and enthusiasm to solving problems using technology.
The United States has been home to so many amazing digital inventions — from Silicon Valley to its counterparts like Austin, Boston, Eastern Kentucky, Louisville, Boise, Salt Lake, Atlanta, and more. Last year, there were more than 600,000 high-paying jobs across a variety of industries in the United States that were unfilled, and by 2018, 51 percent of all STEM jobs are projected to be in CS-related fields.
Our economy and our children’s futures can’t afford to wait.
We’ve made real progress, but we have a lot of work left to do. In 22 states, computer science still doesn’t count toward high school graduation requirements for math or science, and 75 percent of schools don’t yet offer a single high-quality computer science course. Plus, stereotypes perpetuated by media portrayals, unconscious bias, the unsung history of CS heroes like Grace Hopper, and outdated classroom materials often discourage many from taking these courses — they often ‘opt-out’ of CS even when it is offered.
The good news is innovators in education are already solving these challenges and leading the way all over the country. We recently recognized just a handful of these Americans at the White House Champions of Change for Computer Science Education event. These students, teachers, and community leaders are proving what’s possible, like the Spanish teacher in Queens who co-created a “Digital Dance” experience, bringing code into school dances. Or the high school and college students who tutor their younger peers in these skills, solidifying their own knowledge through mentoring.
As a kid, I was lucky to be exposed to CS — but a lot of my generation didn’t get that chance. Let’s get all-hands-on-deck to make sure every child is learning to code as a new ‘basic’ skill – so they can all be part of the next generation of American ingenuity, problem solving, adventure, and deep economic impact.