Now of course, I need to hedge myself here and say I'm not anti-coding. We obviously need people in computer science, we need people that are good at coding, and we need people to continue to advance operating systems. And, as far as I know, we have plenty. Computers are getting programmed and built all the time. Planes aren't falling out of the sky and the internet isn't shutting down while power grids fail due a national lack of coders. In fact, if there really were a shortage of coders, I'm quite confident the market would increase salaries for coders, increasing the interest in the field, and drawing a new supply. If anything, I would argue we need coders less than ever. With cloud-based applications, click and drag websites, and WYSIWYG design templates have really eliminated the need for coding for the average coder. Decades ago, if I had wanted to type this blog, I would need to have considerable HTML knowledge to write this as lines of code. My website would take weeks to add content via Dreamweaver, and I'd need to write dozens of scripts on Automator in order to sync all my data. Now...it's all down via click-and-drag interfaces, and automated systems. There's far less to code, and far less to attempt to code. Even computers themselves, once programable and open source for hobbyists, are now sealed systems with specialized screws. No one gets in, and no one gets out. What is it, exactly, that needs "coded"...and what platforms are left for average people to practice coding?
In fact, when one looks at the "Hour of Code" operation, it's a closed box as well. Students use a closed system in order to "code" a character to move in a certain sequence and perform functions using sets of pre-built functions which they (again) click and drag into place. It's "coding" in the same way that playing fantasy football is the same as being a real NFL GM. I can't say this type of "coding" does any harm...but is it a new Third Rail next to Math and Reading? Hardly. There was a great time to get into coding...and it was 40 years ago. Now, it might make a great profession for some, but hardly a life-enriching skill for others.
The funny thing is, coding use to be a much more important part of school until "coding" took over. I remember building, programing, and running a Lego Ferris Wheel from scratch in a 7th grade Tech Ed. class...and even then the assignment was considered "old". It was a great activity and I had a lot of fun...but it was later eliminated, and the software to replace it likely doesn't exist. In fact, any coding that we used back then is likely obsolete; a simple button or two would replace all the work we put into it.
So sure, let's give the students an hour to code...maybe it'll motivate one or two to consider Computer Science. But lets stop pretending we're doing something noble; we're just helping to sell a product for someone. Whoever is running STEM and CODE and MAKE are earning a bundle these days...