Coding as the New Literacy

Why everyone should learn to code!

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Back in your early years in school, you probably remember the first time you had to learn the word 'libre' and associate it with 'book'. That first foray into French found you confused. How could people think like that? Did this mean that you were going to have to relearn every word you knew? How was all of that going to fit inside of your head?

However, patterns emerged, your minds managed to contain everything. And however many years removed you may be from that marathon of learning, now your mind has an entirely new appreciation for how you can use another language to express yourself. Some may have continued on, learning Spanish, Hebrew, German, or even Sign Language as a way to communicate with friends, loved ones, colleagues, or strangers around the world.

As the Internet has grown, distances between different cultures have shrunk, bringing those who speak Afrikaans into the same digital forums as Japanese and Korean-speaking participants. Ultimately, language is one of our primary tools for solving problems. It is how we express a want or a need, and how we can instruct and share knowledge. And while each of these spoken and written languages has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, there is a relatively new language on the block that is allowing us to achieve the same goal in new and interesting ways.


The arcane collection of obscure symbols from your keyboard, arranged together in such a way that the computer can understand what it is you want it to do. A set of 'written' instructions that can convey your desire to solve a problem, explore a new resource, or accomplish a goal. This sounds a lot like a language. It has its own vocabulary, its own syntax, and even its own idioms. Those who can speak it fluently are the innovators and thought leaders in the world, today.

Consider Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, arguably two of the more influential people on our lives and culture of the past thirty years. Both started as people with ideas, who knew enough code to express those ideas and convert them into businesses. Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim were all young, energetic designers and coders who started a small site call YouTube back in 2005. They used the power of the web, and their skills at coding, to change the way we approached video content on the web.

Most people are intimidated by the idea that they could learn to code. That's for intellectuals, geeks, and techies, right? However, there is a new movement in literacy, a movement where the ability to convey your desires to the computer in a language it can understand is something that people are reaching out for eagerly. Students, stay-at-home moms, long-haul truck drivers, and construction workers are all learning a new way to express themselves and solve problems.

Code is the new literacy. When the printing press made it possible for the common author to have their work distributed to a much wider audience, the world of the written word changed dramatically. Now, with the world-wide reach of the internet, and the explosion of the startup movement, the world is seeing a new opportunity to express itself. This time that expression is through a different language, the language of code.

written by: Don Burks