Coding’s Ratatouille Moment

By Gordon Smith, CEO and Co-Founder, and David Oblath, Co-Founder, Codesters

Central to the mission and work of Codesters is our shared vision that all children should get the opportunity to learn computer science. Computer science positively contributes to the development of crucial skills such as teamwork, problem solving, and logic. Coding itself is essential to numerous fields of study in science and beyond.

A crucial corollary to this vision is our core belief that anyone – any child – has the ability for computer science. For too long computer science was seen as only appropriate for “advanced” students, especially “advanced” students in more privileged school settings. As we have seen at Codesters, there are no demographic markers – not race, nor gender, nor class, that correlate with a child’s ability to code. Children with IEPs, with learning delays, or with chronic classroom behavior issues have also proven to excel at coding.

Ratatouille Picture Courtesy Pixar / Disney

That anyone can code – that we should never assume a child “can’t” – brings to mind a movie our kids love, the 2007 Disney Pixar film Ratatouille. The motto of the famed Chef Gusteau, that “anyone can cook”, looms large to both aspiring chef Linguini and his pal and star of the movie, the rat Remy. By the end of Ratatouille, Linguini and Remy achieve great things in their chosen profession, with the latter being called “nothing less than the finest chef in France.”

We both love this about Ratatouille – the constant reminder and reinforcement that “anyone can cook.” The next great chef could come from anywhere; indeed, anyone with passion, even a rat like Remy, can create the next great meal. Ratatouille teaches us that we can never know who will emerge as the next superstar in any given field.

As the school year winds down and the next school year appears on the horizon, the CS-in-schools movement has reached its Ratatouille moment. Where are the solutions to the next set of complex problems going to come from? Who will develop the next great software platform? Just as we can never know who the next great cook will be, so too may the next great programmer come from any community, anywhere.

Will every kid who is exposed to computer science become a professional computer scientist, paid to write code? Probably not. But just as everyone needs to know how to cook, even a little, so too does everyone, and especially every child, need that taste of computer science (and hopefully a good bit more) in order to address the challenges we all face. From the pool of coding-literate young adults, superstars will emerge where they otherwise might never have.

So as the debate continues as to whether everyone, including every student, should learn to code, and just as the US Computer Education community continues to go back and forth on whether US schools are teaching kids how to code the right way, at Codesters we remain resolute that, like cooking, coding is something we’re all capable of doing. This is what animates our work and drives our efforts to reach more schools, districts, and teachers. To paraphrase Chef Gusteau: “anyone can code”.

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