Today was career day at my son’s school. He’s seven. Like every other seven-year-old, he lives for Minecraft and wants to be a video game developer. And so today he donned his favorite Minecraft shirt and proudly went to school as his favorite video game developer, Markus Persson. But his teacher thought differently. She told him that he had to sit out the day’s activities because, apparently, being a games developer is not a real job.
Yes. You read that correctly. I’m furious.
Dismissing the unknown is ignorant and an epidemic in the heartland of America. I live in the middle of Michigan where blogging is a hobby and not a job – people still ask me when I’m going to go work in a real office. Around here becoming a game developer is seen as a pipe dream instead of an aspirational career. Students studying technical jobs in the Midwest are expected to build and fix tangible objects instead of virtual things.
For some reason coding is looked upon as a fake career and therefore sneered at instead of being celebrated for its status as one of the highest-paid and most in-demand jobs in the world. And the irony is that the we live in Flint, a region of the United States in such dire need of good jobs that it’s almost criminal.
I struggle at coding and hacking but thanks to stellar Google skills, I can manage to complete simple tasks. I learned BASIC and Mavis Beacon in school. I taught myself how to build in Flash but that was back when it was Macromedia Flash. I haven’t coded in a while, but I know that it takes a moment to learn and a lifetime to master.
I decided years ago that both of my children would be fluent coders. Simply knowing that there is a framework of code behind Minecraft or Crossy Road is nearly as important as knowing how to code it. This knowledge removes the mysticism of computers. iPad games are not made of magic. They are made of math and logic and my kids understand that and aspire to build their own programs.
Coding needs to be taught in primary schools. The skill is now as critical as math and grammar. Schools in the United States are under a pressure to meet specific expectations, but are these expectations representative of the changing job market? I don’t think so.
And teacher, please don’t tell my kid that whatever he wants to do is not a real job. Because the way things are going – with the rise of tele-education and a renewed focus on STEM – your own attitude might make you extinct.