A Civil Rights Issue of the 21st Century: Access to a Modern Education

by Peter Leyden

Hadi Partovi, the co-founder of Code.org and the anchor for our “Reinvent Digital Education” online roundtable, thinks access to learning computer science is one of the great civil rights issues of our time, along with providing a comprehensive education that keeps up with the high tech world developing around us.

The roundatble that Partovi led focused on three aspects of the transition to a more digital elementary school education: what kids now need to learn, how they can now learn with new technologies, and what digital infrastructure is needed to fully carry out this new model.

What we teach should be different. Why don’t the curriculums of America’s public schools have computer science as part of the basics, since computers touch every part of our lives at work and home? What would be the case for making that change and teaching all children to code?

How we teach should be different. Digital technologies should be woven much more seamlessly into the learning experience of students both inside and outside the classroom. Kids today intuitively learn on their own when given iPads and allowed to roam free on YouTube. But in most classrooms they still sit in desks and listen to lectures all day.

The basic infrastructure of schools should be different. American elementary students might have better access to digital technologies and the Internet than students in Africa, but their exposure is usually very limited and peripheral. How would a K-12 education be different if we redesigned schools from the ground up and gave every child their own computer, or access to a computer, in every classroom with high bandwidth?