Even Linus Torvalds, one of the most influential computer scientists alive today, doesn’t believe everybody should learn to code.
Torvalds, the creator of Linux and Git (a version control system for dev teams, and the technology behind GitHub), opened up for an unusually lengthy Q&A this weekend. Now 44, Torvalds shaped modern computing, and yet his views contrast recent learn-to-code campaigns like Codecademy’s Code Year.
When asked about the future of computer science education, Torvalds said, “I actually don’t believe that everybody should necessarily try to learn to code. I think it’s reasonably specialized, and nobody really expects most people to have to do it. It’s not like knowing how to read and write and do basic math.”
While enthusiasm for computer science is high — even President Obama is into it — many developers have reacted negatively to learn-to-code campaigns. The pervading counterargument, it seems, simply claims that programming isn’t for everyone.
However, Torvalds clarified that “there may well be lots of people who never realized that they might actually like telling computers what to do.” For this, he says, “computer courses in schools are a great idea” — even if he doesn’t “believe in the everybody-should-learn-to-code thing.”
That said, I think people should have some way of getting exposure to it, just so that people who find that they enjoy it and have the aptitude know about the possibility. Not because everybody will want to or need to learn, but just because it is a great vocation, and there may well be lots of people who never realized that they might actually like telling computers what to do. So in that sense I think computer courses in schools are a great idea, even if I do not believe in the “everybody-should-learn-to-code” thing.
Check out Torvald’s interview in full.