printf(“Good morning, Vietnam”)

There’s a remarkable post making the rounds on Twitter today. i thought i’d pull it onto the blog to help it reach a wider audience.

Neil Fraser, who works for the education department at Google, visited an elementary school in Vietnam to learn about how Computer Science is taught there. What he learned was fascinating, and frankly, it should have Americans quaking in their boots!

Read: CS in VN by Neil Fraser

During the article, Neil links to a Vic20 commercial that i was desperately trying to find for my TEDx talk last fall:

Neil’s summary of American CS education near the end of the article is both frightening and sad (and all of it true). i repost it here, in case you can’t make time to read the rest of his account:

  • School boards fight to keep CS out of schools, since every minute spent on CS is one less minute spent on core subjects like English and math. The students’ test scores in these core subjects determine next year’s funding, so CS is a threat.
  • Teachers often refuse to teach real CS because more often than not they don’t understand it. Instead, they end up teaching word processing and website construction, while calling it CS.
  • Parents often oppose CS classes since the grade has no direct benefit on their child’s academic prospects. This is compounded by a lack of understanding of the difference between their child playing video games and their child writing video games.
  • Students intentionally tune out of CS class since there are few things worse in American high school than being labelled a nerd.

Last year, i felt like i was fighting tooth and nail to teach a Scratch class (for free) at my daughter’s elementary school for the third grade students there. Getting permission to run a weekly lunch club was like pulling teeth. Since that experience, i’ve been teaching occasional classes at schools and summer camps that are happy to have me. i really wonder when North American schools will have completely missed their shot at this, and those of us who are eager to teach compsci to young children will just give up and buy a plane ticket to Vietnam?

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