Do Computers belong in Schools?

I have been asked several times whether I believe Computers belong in Schools, especially by friends who already know my answer and like to stir controversy.

I believe computers are extremely useful TOOLS to support teaching, but should not be attributed a single hour of the curriculum as TEACHING TOPICS.

I do not believe there is ANY value in a kid learning how a computer works, how to program a computer, or how to design a computer.

Like any tool, it accomplishes a function; like any tool it is being constantly improved and innovated; some tools are of very common use (e.g. your DVD player or microwave oven), some others are reserved for specialists (a vibrator for liquid concrete or a bulldozer).

Nobody is thinking of having an hour or two per week dedicated to microwave ovens or bulldozers, so why make an exception for computers, especially in the light of evidence that shows how any 5yo masters your new smartphone in seconds?

Children are perfectly able to learn by themselves how to use a computer for the things they care about (surfing or playing games) but no, we want them to become masters of Word or PHP wizards.

The mistake however does not lie in the fact that, under the ridiculous pretense of making them more competitive, they would learning stuff that’s already way obsolete (by definition) and which will therefore be of NO PRACTICAL VALUE whatsoever.

No, the real damage is in the trade-off. Add an hour of Computer Programming and you must take out an hour of something else.

Like math.

Like reading or writing.

Like history of geography.

Like literature, poetry, music or art.

Like foreign languages.

Any of those holds in the humble opinion of someone who scraped a living with computers for 40+ years far more value in building a balanced, sensitive, intelligent, curious, tolerant human being than – ugh – a feckin’ computer.

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