SF Chronicle: Teach every San Francisco kid to code

By Matt Haney

San Francisco is the technology capital of the world. We have a higher density of tech founders than any other city, and information technology continues to be our fastest growth industry. Yet, here in the world’s technological Mesopotamia, San Francisco’s children are far too often shut out from the skills, experiences and opportunities they need to thrive in this new economy.

San Franciscans deserve workforce diversity that matches our city diversity, and residents prepared for the booming knowledge economy flourishing in their backyard. The tech sector can do more to make this possible, but so can our schools: San Francisco children grow up in the shadow of technology giants like Twitter and Salesforce, but are shockingly less likely than their peers in many other urban areas to learn coding or computer science.

Fewer than 5 percent of San Francisco high school students are enrolled in a computer science course, and only half of our city’s high schools even offer a course. Out of the 10,000 San Francisco high school students who took an AP exam in 2014, only 2.2 percent took the AP Computer Science Exam. Less than 15 percent of those students were female, and not a single African American student from San Francisco took the exam. It’s time to chart an entirely new path.

San Francisco Unified School District should join districts around the country by expanding computer science education to all schools and all students, kindergarten through 12th grade.

No longer should access to high-quality curriculum in technology be predictable by race, gender or school you attend. Every high school in San Francisco should offer a course in computer science. Hardware, infrastructure and outdated policies that prevent the use of devices in schools all need to be upgraded and modernized.

We must also teach our kids to code: Merging mathematics, logic, algorithms and storytelling, coding teaches us how to confront large problems by breaking them into smaller, more manageable sequences. These are valuable skills for all kids, and now required for many professions. And as with any new language, the younger you start, the easier it is to gain fluency.

While in the past, ideas could be spread solely through the written word, our future will also be written in code. Change makers, thinkers, artists and inventors will require deep knowledge of this digital medium to build a better world.

Whether or not our children choose a career as a software engineer, they should all be equipped to creatively use computers and technology to solve problems. Living in tech-fueled San Francisco, these skills and opportunities should not be optional; all kids should have access to them, and our schools can make that a reality.

Matt Haney is the vice president of the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education.

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"Diversity brings so much more to the table - and by focusing outside of the usual and rewarding all sorts of people in tech - we can only make it better. #YesWeCode is doing exactly that."
- Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple

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