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Obama pushes for every child to learn computer science as a basic skill
In his weekly radio address, the president calls for coding "a basic skill, right along with the three Rs." - photo by Eric Schulzke
Computer coding should be taught to every American grade school student, argued President Obama in his weekly radio address Saturday.

In the new economy, computer science isnt an optional skill its a basic skill, right along with the three Rs, Obama said. Nine out of 10 parents want it taught at their childrens schools. Yet right now, only about a quarter of our K-12 schools offer computer science.

Ive got a plan to help make sure all our kids get an opportunity to learn computer science, especially girls and minorities," Obama said. "Thats what this is all about each of us doing our part to make sure all our young people can compete in a high-tech global economy.

The Obama initiative aims to correct a diversity problem in tech fields. "Silicon Valley infamously has a problem with diversity, with the majority of major companies employing mostly white men," the Latin Post says.

In a related fact sheet, the White House says that "access to CS education is limited and wide disparities exist even for those who do have access to these courses. For example, in the fewer than 15 percent of all high schools that offer any Advanced Placement (AP) CS courses in 2015, only 22 percent of those who took the exam were girls, and only 13 percent were African-American or Latino students."

"The $4 billion total in federal funding will be supplemented with donations from some of the largest technology companies in Silicon Valley," Latin Post reports. "The White House announced that a diverse range of companies has pledged more than $60 million in new philanthropic investments, including, Cartoon Network, and Google. Microsoft has also announced a fifty-state campaign to help expand access to computer science coursework, while will offer 25,000 additional teachers training in CS materials. Apple, Facebook, and others have also pledged support."

"And its not just money," the Atlantic says. "Microsoft and other tech companies have been advocating for computer-science courses to count toward high-school graduation requirements. White House officials said that 22 states dont allow such classes to count toward a diploma. (The White Houses Smith said in recent years 17 states have made the switch to have those classes count toward graduation requirements.)"

But the Atlantic, in a lengthy piece, also calls into question some of the assumption behind the push, particularly the notion that STEM fields and computer science in particular are a ticket to high-paying jobs.

"For several years some academics have pushed back against concern the U.S. labor market has a dearth of employees for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)," The Atlantic observes, "citing data that shows positions in those fields arent experiencing spikes in wages something economists say would need to happen in a labor shortage because it shows employers are willing to pay more to attract the talent they need."
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