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As the third annual Computer Science Education Week begins, it is worth taking a closer look at this recent coding craze. The Obama administration’s “Computer Science For All” initiative and the Trump administration’s new effort are both based on the idea that computer programming is not only a fun and exciting activity, but a necessary skill for the jobs of the future.
However, the American history of these education initiatives shows that their primary beneficiaries aren’t necessarily students or workers, but rather the influential tech companies that promote the programs in the first place. The current campaign to teach American kids to code may be the latest example of tech companies using concerns about education to achieve their own goals. This raises some important questions about who stands to gain the most from the recent computer science push.
Old Rhetoric About A “New Economy”
One of the earliest corporate efforts to get computers into schools was Apple’s “Kids Can’t Wait” program in 1982. Apple cofounder Steve Jobs personally lobbied Congress to pass the Computer Equipment Contribution Act, which would have allowed companies that donated computers to schools, libraries, and museums to deduct the equipment’s value from their corporate income tax bills. While his efforts in Washington failed, he succeeded in his home state of California, where companies could claim a tax credit for 25% of the value of computer donations.
The bill was clearly a corporate tax break, but it was framed in terms of educational gaps: According to…