Coding Proficiency Is the New Literacy

Emily Fong

No other field of study has exploded in the past few years like computer programming has. With the prominence of Silicon Valley and the rise of the tech economy, it is no wonder that computer literacy has turned into one of the most valued skills for students entering the workforce. However, as with any STEM field, students may find that learning to code is a tedious and often frustrating process for those without a significant interest in the sciences. This is unsurprising, given that efforts aimed towards increasing computer programming knowledge are heavily influenced by vague promises of potential careers somewhere
down the line.

But even if a student is disinclined to join the tech workforce, it is still important to be able to learn how to code. Humanities majors should learn to code for other reasons than the job-based justifications sloppily presented to them. For example, technology is beginning to play a huge role in the production and the consumption of arts and literature today. The next great American novel likely won’t be written without a word processing program. Amateur journalists sitting at home now break news from their own websites. Computers are used to design stages and curate lights and sound in theaters, not to mention that some of the most captivating works of modern art — a favorite of mine is Nam June Paik’s Electronic Superhighway — play off the effect technology has on our lives. When those studying the humanities learn to code, new possibilities open up for their various projects. And of course, it’s super satisfying to be able to finish a project yourself without having to call the IT guy every time something fails to work as it should.

Especially important is ensuring underserved demographics have the chance to learn how to program. For women, people of color and students in developing countries, having coding skills is a pathway to upward mobility. A dearth of programming skills should be seen as a literacy problem — with more and more of the world being digitized, we’ve come to rely so heavily on technology that often it is inseparable from the way we live our lives. Technology, computers and coding are the keys
to the future.

Yet when we only give those keys to Silicon Valley-types — a group that is overwhelmingly male, white and well-educated — we are invariably locking out the rest of the world. Therefore, everyone should have, and take, the opportunity to learn how to code. At NYU, the computer science department has a number of introductory courses designed to teach those without a programming background, and other individual classes exist that teach in alternate programming languages like Processing. Resources exist in abundance; it’s just a matter of finding and diving into them. The wise would do well to take that plunge.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, September 19 print edition. Email Emily Fong at [email protected]



  1. YOU MILLENIALS with all your computers and such and such. My laptop broke two days ago and without it im feeling completely LOST. you know who I blame?! MILLENIALS. and OBAMA. we need to be LESS reliant on technology before robots take us all over. I bet OBAMA is a robot. Don’t learn to code, LEARN TO WRANGLE ROBOTS

  2. I learned how to code when I was a child and I’ve been wrangling robots before any sort of “apple” came off of anything except trees. MILLENNIALS need to get REAL JOBS to PROTECT SOCIETY from the ROBOTS!!! #NutsAndBolts2K16


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here