Obama wants all kids to learn to write code. As if this is the new sure-fire path to the middle class. Or higher! But this sounds suspiciously like the iconic, terrible career advice Dustin Hoffman received in the movie The Graduate: Plastics.
Women are enrolling in computer science courses at a higher rate than men. This means that writing code will be the new female ghetto, and you will need to be crafty about how you learn to code so you avoid falling into the mire of the underpaid, under-appreciated labor pool.
Here’s a great business. My friend has been moving her site around from one hosting company to another and I thought this was an example of her genius: Always getting a good deal. But then she accidentally let her domain expire and this company bought it up in like six seconds. They must have written some program that finds domains that are getting used a lot but are about to expire and the program lurks to see if the person forgets to renew.
So this shyster company buys the domain, then sends an email to my friend to tell her that they will sell it back to her. And she’s been writing on this domain for like five years, so she doesn’t want to lose it. And they want $2500 for it.
I tell her to call a lawyer because I know you can’t buy McDonald’s so probably you can’t buy her name, either. And the lawyer tells her that they must really know what they are doing because $2500 is pretty much what it would cost to hire a lawyer to get the URL back. Then he points out that the company is offering to finance the $2500.
That is really impressive, the financing part. Genius. That’s a great business model. And you can’t do that business model without knowing how to write code.
Another enticing aspect of writing code: The FBI is trying to hire hackers, and the FBI can’t find hackers who don’t smoke pot. So Congress is talking about how maybe we should just consider the idea that we have to change the drug testing laws for federal employees because all the hackers who the government wants to hire are ineligible and don’t care enough to stop smoking pot.
You know what all these jobs have in common? They are entrepreneurial. So, sure, learning to write code is a good idea but only if you can pair it with entrepreneurial chops.
But you don’t need to be a code-head to make a path for yourself. Couponing requires incredible organization and attention to detail, being a high-end escort requires great social skills to have a quality conversation in an unfamiliar setting, and painting lawns requires visionary thinking.
All this stuff seems absurd. But what’s really absurd is thinking you can set your kid established on some guaranteed-safe path. Being a lawyer is not safe. Being a doctor is not safe. Not even climbing a corporate ladder is safe. All the safe paths are gone. They were never that safe to begin with. And all there are now is paths that are true to your child’s strengths.
Don’t tell your kids they can be anything. It’s not true and it’s not helpful. And don’t tell them they need to find a sure-fire career for adult life. Because that’s not true or helpful either.
The safest way to send your kid out into the world is after teaching them to know their strengths and weaknesses, understanding that no path is safe, so it’s okay to pick one that feels true to who they are.