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Students of Color, Coding, and Integration [The Atlantic]

Written on 5 March 2016, 08:45am under As Seen In

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Are we replicating existing inequities for some students of color when we place the singular focus on coding? Is it preferable to integrate coding camps and classes with learning opportunities in schools? These are some of the questions answered in my recent article, titled “Will the Push for Coding Lead to ‘Technical Ghettos’?

Coding boot camps are just the first step, Brown said, arming students with simple skills when more complex diagnostic thinking is required to be truly skilled in the field. “The former is training, while the latter is education,” she said. This issue takes on greater significance when students of color are considered, raising issues of equity in the drive to racially diversify the tech sector and underscoring the difference between an occupation and a profession.

Kamau Bobb, the program director in computer-science education at NSF and Brown’s colleague, notes that the dominant argument in support of youth of color learning to code is to “get a good job”—creating a stratified system where students from racial and ethnic groups, and lower socioeconomic backgrounds, are prepped for work as service technicians and helpdesk agents. “While those [tech jobs] are needed and noble, they are at the very bottom … in terms of pay and prestige,” he said. Bobb contrasts this with white and Asian middle-class students who are urged to attend college and major in computer science. “What’s missing from this model is that students of color are offered a choice that truncates their ambition.”

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