I’m old enough to remember when my parents got their first computer for the family. It was a big deal. It ran on a system called DOS and had a green screen, but our world had changed forever, we just had no idea how much. The computer is arguably the most revolutionary invention in the last 100 years right up there with electricity or the telephone.
The world has never been the same.
In the last forty years the computer has shifted our entire way of life. Computers now control so many different industries that even many laypeople rely on them every day. I watched recently a washing machine repair tech standing in my laundry room, log into Wi-Fi, download the specs to the model that he was working on, order the part, take credit card payment, schedule shipping and installation like it was a normal day on the job, because it was. And he was a simple repairman. Don’t tell me our whole world hasn’t changed.
Most of the next generation have no idea how to read an Atlas or a paper map. The phones they carry in their pockets have so much power they seamlessly access satellite maps in real time and the calculate best routes even allowing for construction or accidents while speaking to you in whatever accent you prefer. Inconceivable only a few years ago.
The jobs of the future lie in tech. Not just white collar jobs either. All jobs will have some form of computer knowledge needed to succeed, but to really protect America we need to get it in gear and start teaching our kids how to code and program. If we don’t, we won’t just fall behind the world in the job market, we will be losing on the battlefield of the future.
Cyber-security can’t be contracted out to China or India for obvious reasons. Last year China successful attacked the US Office of Personnel Management. Edward Snowden became famous for his hack. Hillary Clinton became infamous for her email servers and many of us began to realize just how at risk we are.
What if Korea successfully hacked our infrastructure and crashed our power grids? What if ISIS gained access to military codes? The scary list goes on and on…and to defeat this enemy we need super computer nerds. Seriously, we must teach the kids of today that computers are where it’s at for the future.
The problem is we are so far behind in the ability to provide that education we are simply on a failing trajectory.
According to a Fox News Op Ed, our University’s graduated around 50,000 computer science graduates last year to fill more 500,000 jobs. Only 1 in 4 American schools even teach any meaningful computer science and while AP Computer Science students have doubled in the last 2 years only 10% of our High Schools even offer it. We are at risk.
That is why it is so exciting that last month, 28 bipartisan governors came together with 77 CEOs and educators from around the country to ask Congress to fund K-12 computer science education. While our politics remain nothing but horribly divided, this issue alone truly brings everyone together. One-hundred-thirty-five Republicans and Democrats stood side-by-side and asked the Appropriations Committee to prioritize this much needed education funding.
We are standing at a crossroads. As old men look longingly to the past, a new generation is flying weaponized drones in Afghanistan from a base in Las Vegas. We must invest in computer science now. We need these brilliant new techies to be homegrown Americans. Our National Security and literally our way of life depends on it.
So the next time you scoff at some kid who can’t get enough screen time because he/she is obsessed with creating an elaborate world online with a friend in England…think twice. Those two little computer junkies could be just the geniuses we need to fight the cyber war that is already underway.
Wise politicians will come together and do this in an election year. They can thump their chests and ask for votes. More power to them, as long as American schools get the money they need to take our next generation into a brave new frontier. If we don’t, we will surely suffer dire consequences at the hands of an enemy who is not stronger than us, just smarter and better trained in cyber warfare. It really is that simple.