There is a thought that continues to bother me, because its controversial.
I’m still not sure whether I believe that coding is a necessity here in La Paz. I say that as I go to work everyday, see students working on their projects and learning a new digital tool. But it feels like what they learn is picked up and left at our office in Elemental. I don’t imagine students going home to continue coding or building a robot at home. Maybe they go home, brag to their parents and friends about how they are spending their summer vacation, but I still yet have found a convincing reason for students to learn coding here in La Paz.
I’m discovering a rhetoric that was initiated in the United States, and has trickled down to Bolivia, a third-world country. Parents (who are in a high enough SES to have the privilege of school choices) complain that they want something “different.” They also want their kids to be ready for the digital age, especially since technology is so ubiquitous in their daily life. I think programming and coding is a desire, but we must not confuse it for a necessity. There are many consequences to that. For example, there are not many jobs for programmers here. Elemental, in a sense, is equipping these students with the necessary knowledge to leave the country. That may not be a bad thing, if they come back to help their country. But the economy cannot be compared to the US, and what works in the States can’t be copied and pasted to another country. It only exacerbates the digital divide (i.e. access to physical resources and digital literacy).
Maybe what we are teaching them is not meant to be used directly in the workforce, but is meant to inspire logical thinkers who are well versed in procedural literacy. I can’t help but disagree with the work and mission of Elemental, because it puts many other students at a disadvantage. It’s not fair, but that is something I continue to struggle with. In utopia, education would be equitable and equal for all, but it’s not. It never will be in any country. Our responsibility is not to lie to parents and say that coding is necessary for a child to be successful in the future. It’s not necessary to know HTML or Java to use a website. As we move forward in the digital age where technology becomes more ubiquitous in educational settings, we must be careful to always have a balance between ideologies, rhetoric, and educational research that can confirm the expansion of a program or idea.