How Many Jobs Are There For Poets

Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

How Many Jobs Are There For Poets

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I was listening to an Internet stream of Gary Stager presenting a keynote at an education conference in Iowa the other day. The technology for this amazes me but the opportunity it provides is even more impressive. In any case, during his talk he presented a conversation that went something like this:

"Are you suggesting every kid should learn to program?"
"Well...we decided every kid should learn haiku..YES! why NOT programming?”

I had a sarcastic Tweet that I followed this with - We teach school kids to write poetry but not program computers because there are so many more jobs for poets than programmers. Right?

Now I was a student for many years and a teacher for a few as well so I know the argument that “we’re not a vocational school” or that “not everything we teach is about a job” or that “things we are teaching are part of being a fully rounded out individual.” They’re all somewhat valid arguments. So is “not every one will be a programmer.” But it seems to me that:

  • Programming today is about being a fully rounded out individual
  • Programming skills build the sort of problem solving skills people use in many jobs
  • Programming is a still growing and profitable career but when is the last time you saw an opening listed for a poet?

Sure the arts are important but even though we don’t teach English to create professional poets (or novelists) we are seldom upset if students write poetry or novels. Likewise we should expose students to the beauty, power, and fun of software development and not be too upset if they do follow that into a career. And if they don’t become software developers they will have good life skills that will help them in what ever field they do enter.

The late Steve Jobs called computer science a “liberal art.”

“In my perspective … science and computer science is a liberal art, it’s something everyone should know how to use, at least, and harness in their life. It’s not something that should be relegated to 5 percent of the population over in the corner. It’s something that everybody should be exposed to and everyone should have mastery of to some extent, and that’s how we viewed computation and these computation devices.” via Steve Jobs: ‘Computer Science Is A Liberal Art’ : NPR.

Personally, for me, a well written piece of computer code is just as cool, just as artistic and just as valid a thing to teach students as a Haiku.



  • The book "Program or Be Programmed" that we received at the CSIT Symposium was really helpful to affirm in my mind the need to look more critically at our use of computers in schools.  I've always maintained that all students should take at least one computer science course.  It's more important now than ever.  However, somewhere along the line, we've fallen off the rails.  The constant pushback that I get is that the content is too hard.  And yet, we expect people to program remote controls, microwave ovens, GPS units, etc.

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