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Kids should be taught programming when they express an interest, and when their brain is ready which in my non-facts based opinion is 11-13 years old.

Trying to make kids learn programming without them being interested is about the parent wanting their children to be like them.

Kids should be taught whatever their parents know well, starting as early as possible. If the kids have no aptitude or interest in those things, they should eventually be dropped. But when you teach your children what you know, you get to take advantage of the fact that your children have an interest in and an admiration of you, and you might be able to cram in the basics of a trade that they can always fall back on later in life.

> Kids should be taught programming when they express an interest

If we felt this way about other subjects, we would never teach 95% of kids math, or 50% of them how to read.

edit: the best outcome is that they might love it, and if they do will probably end up far better than you at it, and will make a trustworthy business partner once they reach adulthood.

Agreed. Everyone wants to share what they love with someone else, but you have to respect the fact that others won't love what you love.

I've tried to encourage my little (he's 21 now) brother to get into programming, but he's just not interested. I'm disappointed, but that's my problem, not his. He's had every opportunity to get into it. He's got his own computer and a big brother willing to teach him. If he wanted to do it he would've done it.

My other brother became a mechanic despite nobody encouraging him to do it, nor providing him with the resources when he was younger. He had to go out and find old lawnmower engines to work on by himself. He was actively discouraged from bringing home junk by our parents, but he did it anyway.

The vast majority of people do not want to become programmers. The best thing you can do for children is to expose them to as many things as you can. Take them to museums. Involve them in your hobbies and your friends' hobbies if possible and if they want to. You'll know when they've found what they want to do.

Also, don't be disappointed if girls just want to be mothers. It's one of the most important and noble jobs there is. Don't discourage it because you don't think it's as important as what you do.

Also, don't be disappointed if boys just want to be fathers. It's one of the most important and noble jobs there is. Don't discourage it because you don't think it's as important as what you do.

These statement don't sit well with me. Anyone "just being a <whatever>" in their life feels incomplete. (I think you were implying this by reversing the genders.)

To the GP, if it's OK for girls to "just be mothers", is it then OK to describe a woman as "just a mother"?

I have a daughter. I suspect that if she becomes "just a mother", what that really means is her skills and interests are so foreign to me that I can't come up with a better description than "just a mother". And I hope that I will not be OK with that.

"Just a regular guy" etc. There's nothing wrong with being just anything.

You need to stop treating everyone in the world like a member of your scrum team or something. Understanding people's "skills and interests"? They're just people for crying out loud, speak to them. And no, there's nothing wrong with being "just a person". Stop being so analytical and desperate to have everything conform to your fantasies of what the world should be like.

"Just a regular guy" is still assumed to have distinct personality, interests, hobbies and skills. "Just a mom" is not. That is not the statement on what actual moms are like, but what people imagine when they hear the phrase.

Like in the original comment this started with "girls just want to be mothers" is contrasted with being a person who has any out of parenting interests at all.

And for all the talk about "noble", no interests at all leaves you with nothing to think about, nothing to talk about, nothing to do, nothing to be happy about when children are not present. Nothing to be proud about once the kids are not toddlers anymore and their achievements are their own.

> "Just a regular guy" is still assumed to have distinct personality, interests, hobbies and skills. "Just a mom" is not.

Speak for yourself. Sounds like projection to me.

Do you have children? Parents can be very proud of their children's accomplishments.

Yes I am parent.

And parent "living exclusively through childrens achievements" is object of criticism. That situation is not good for children, because they end up being pushed into parents dreams. It is unfair to children to expect them to be your source of proudness or whatever.

> Take them to museums. Involve them in your hobbies and your friends' hobbies if possible


Also, focus on removing obstacles to learning, rather than pushing them to learn.

The best way to get a kid interest in music is to keep a second hand guitar lying around (tuned, what a coincidence) on the couch. The next best thing is to play yourself from time to time.

Everything else is just noise.

> Take them to museums. Involve them in your hobbies and your friends' hobbies if possible

How is that any different then "and show them also some programming"?

Hardly. Programming should be treated like reading: an essential life skill. And if you use reading as the example, you can start developing an interest in books before the child is actually old enough to read.

The OP isn't taking his daughter through a coding course, just showing her that cool things are capable via coding. What could be wrong with that?

I'm curious why anyone would think programming is an essential life skill, considering how many successful people are alive today who cannot code.

Another thought: when ML starts getting applied to solving programming (see recent GPT-3 demos for many examples), do you think by the time that 5 year old is 20, programming will still be a viable career for humans?

> I'm curious why anyone would think programming is an essential life skill, considering how many successful people are alive today who cannot code.

There was a time when you probably could have said the same thing about reading.

I'm not talking about programming as a career. Much like reading and writing, you can have a career focused around it, but it has applications in non-technical careers.

Many jobs have repetitive tasks. I've personally had jobs in my life where lots of aspects could be handled by scripts (although I didn't know how to write them at the time). Additionally, a lot of workplaces rely on Excel for key workflows that would be simpler and faster as programs. Computer literacy, much like writing, opens doors. The vast majority of people who learn how to write are never employed as professional writers.

Additionally, like reading and writing, it can be a great source of pleasure. Much like the author, I make little games for my daughter to play on (https://letter-press.netlify.app/snek/ for example). You can create art with code, or treat it as a puzzle solving exercise, or use it to modify your favorite games.

Hacker News readers include some of the most sheltered and naïve people in the world. It really beggars belief sometimes just how out of touch with reality they are. A lot of them are funnelled through university straight into ridiculously high paying jobs and will never experience life at a normal level.

As time goes on the more essential it will become as it is one of the last jobs to be taken by AI.

I agree with you that it will be one of the last jobs to go, but it will go. Fast-forward 15 years, and hypothesize about "GPT-15" or whatever, running on a quantum computer, just as a fun thought experiment, then put your kid up against that in the jobs market.

I think people will always learn math, programming, and natural languages for fun and intellectual growth, but I don't see those being paying jobs in 2 decades, when AI will be vastly superior to us.

For example, think about how many millions bugs are because of the most basic of human errors, time and time again, and the huge costs associated with that.

Is it essential though? I'm a competent software developer developer, and programming rarely saves the day for me. In fact, I'd probably have fewer problems if I stopped coding outside of work.

Depends what you do, I guess. I'd argue that there are uses in most jobs, but you have to know how to code AND know the domain well. There are few jobs that I've had that couldn't have benefited from knowing a little scripting or some basic unix tooling. At least they would have been a little more fun.

> Trying to make kids learn programming without them being interested is about the parent wanting their children to be like them

That's harsh. I'd say it's about introducing their children to something they enjoy/find valuable, in the hope that the kid will enjoy it (or get value from it) too

Related: I've tried to get my kids to learn piano, because music has been one of the primary sources of joy in my life and I wanted to pass it on. Hasn't been particularly successful - they've developed some skills, but it never really became something fun for them (at least for the older one, the 12-year-old is still learning)

Definitely agree with this. I knew my son was into computers from a young age, and tried to see if there was a further interest there, but didn't push it.

He's now 13 and is programming every chance he gets - but because he came to it himself, I think he enjoys it more.

Fine article, and what it (tongue-in-cheek) calls “cheating” is just what us self-taught automators call “making the machine do all the crapwork for you”. It’s just unfortunate that the greater tooling and culture currently available is such a sprawling hostile ballache that even the most enthusiastic cheater will be driven to conclude that this shit would be (and likely is) quicker and easier just to do by hand.

The foundational mistake is “teaching programming”. The goal should be to instill (“teach”) critical thinking and analytical problem solving skills, and a “programming environment” just another tool, like pencil and paper, which the student can use when exercising those skills on real-world problems.

Whereas “teaching programming” is teaching language features: what all the buttons are and what they do when you push them. Thus mastery of button-pushing becomes feted as the end-goal of itself, instead of being just some tiresome but necessary tool-practising crapwork (like memorizing the ten-times tables and drawing all the letters from A to Z) that you have to go through on the way to achieving your true goals (which can be anything).

Once again, I point to Papert’s Logo[1] as a good demonstration of just how simple that PE can—and should—be to serve that purpose. Logo’s core concepts can be communicated in just three steps:

1. This is a Word.

2. This is how you Perform words.

3. This is how you Add your own words.

Anything else that the platform provides, such as its dictionary of pre-defined words, can and should be explorable and discoverable; something today’s hardware and software can support and encourage without blinking. Let the students teach that crap to themselves if/as/when they need it, and keep the adults on hand just to observe when students start running themselves down a dead-end and prompt them to other possibilities they had not realized/considered.

Oh, and it really should go without saying that the PE’s error messaging must be the top of their class. Because errors aren’t the “wrong answers” of which a student should feel embarrassed and ashamed, but fresh questions in their own right which spark awareness, exploration, self-correction, and insight.


[1] https://www.amazon.com/Mindstorms-Children-Computers-Powerfu...

Kids show interest in random times tho. And if you do stuff with small children in way they find pleasurable, they tend to start liking and valuing that thing.

Most parents introduce kids to things they themselves like or value. Like, sport, reading books, music, video games, nature, shows they themselves like and so on. People do it even with math and grammar (through I was never able to fully understand the grammar thing). The list is pretty long and the more parents you know, the more normal it seems to be to show your kids what you yourself like soon.

Yeah, five years old is really young but I guess it's worth a try.

I think at 5 years old I played some educational games that my parents had (I can't even remember the names..) and I was lucky that we had a computer because that wasn't common in the early 90's.

I learned a lot about computers from trying to cheat at games though - whether it was hex-editing to get around CD-ROM checks, or memory/packet editing to cheat in the games themselves. I guess mischief and breaking things is attractive to children.

I would have definitely been interested in it before school. I created my own story games using papers and letting people make decisions which lead to a next paper with a story/picture on it. Kind of like a text based game. It would have been amazing to be able to do that without having to use tons of papers... I also loved maths though, but sadly nobody taught me :(

This mirrors my experience. My father was a software engineer, he tried teaching me BASIC and C++ when I was 7-8. I didn't take to it at all until I discovered programming on my own around age 12-13 when I wanted to learn how to build my own websites.

Generally I find a lot of my interests align with my parents, but I always had to discover a passion for them on my own.

Yeah my kid is around the same age as the OP (kindergarten) and seems like he will be interested in coding some day, but just isn't there quite yet! I didn't get into coding until much later, probably 11-13 like you said, and it didn't hold me back!

We're just trying to meet him where he is at and try to make sure he is being creative, whatever it is.

I think until a certain age, kids shouldn't really be bothered with programming. I'm hoping to teach my niece programming. for now we sit down with legos and I try to teach her via socratic method how to break down an idea in her head into the sum of parts and to see what lego piece she can use as parts to construct the whole.

I agree with this, it's like forcing a kid to play sports if they just wanna read books etc.

Worth noting that the author says he started learning to program on his own when he was seven.

Unless we get an AGI to do it for us, there's a part of me that thinks that programming will eventually be as baseline as literacy.

If I'm right, OP is either ahead of the curve or jumping the gun, depending on your perspective. :)

Depends on the kid and the kind of programming. Scratch can be taught at a younger age because it is very visual and the basics do not require much abstract reasoning.

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