Politico | President Barack Obama sat down Monday to write a few lines of computer code with middle school students from Newark, New Jersey, for a PR campaign that has earned bipartisan endorsements from around the Capitol.
The $30 million campaign to promote computer science education has been financed by the tech industry, led by Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, with corporate contributions from Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other giants. It’s been a smash success: So many students opened up a free coding tutorial on Monday that the host website crashed.
But the campaign has also stirred unease from some educators concerned about the growing influence of corporations in public schools.
And it’s raised questions about the motives of tech companies, which are sounding an alarm about the lack of computer training in American schools even as they lobby Congress for more H-1B visas to bring in foreign programmers. Much of the marketing for the campaign, run by the nonprofit Code.org, explicitly touts the need to train more employees for the industry.
“Nowhere else in education do we start by saying ‘We have a need for this in the K-5 curriculum because there are good industry jobs at Google,’” said Joanna Goode, an associate professor at the University of Oregon who works on computer science education. “I’m not doing this work to train Google employees.”