My advice to kids: learn to type, then code

Chip Oglesby bio photo By Chip Oglesby
The person who knows how will always have a job. The person who knows why will always be his boss.

Setting the scene School is starting back soon and that means that kids will be pouring out of their homes and back into school. Unfortunately schools in the United States are not properly prepared to teach kids the basics of typing or computer science.

The best skill I learned in high school was learning to type and being able to do it proficiently. I learned how to type 15 years ago and it’s one of the few skills I have never forgotten.

For me, learning to type and learning basic computer science skills were my ticket out of rural South Carolina and ultimately led to me being a full time Data Analyst and small business owner. I did that on my own through sheer determination and being self taught.

15 years ago, there were no online learning programs or free sites that would teach you computer science. Recently I gave my brother-in-law who is in high school a challenge: Pass your typing class with an A and type 75 wpm (words per minute) and we’ll give you $150 in cash. Regrettably, we’re still hanging on to that money and maybe we’ll invest it in something else in the future.

This led me to spend a lot of time thinking about how our schools systems throughout the US are woefully underprepared to teach students this basic CS skills necessary to be successful.

In June at Fast Pivot, we hired our first college intern from Mars Hill. Without a doubt, our intern as been one of the most exceptional CS majors I’ve met. This is an exception to the rule though, it’s hard to find people in the south who are this motivated.

Why I care so much about kids learning code Learning how to type and code helps you learn how to solve problems. Let me give you an example. Say you’re at home and the door rings. You open the door and one of two things will happen: 1. You’ll see someone who you know. 2. You’ll see someone you don’t know. Immediately your brain runs through a decision tree and formulates a sentence and you’ll speak one of two types of sentences: A salutation that you would use for someone that you know or a salutation for someone who you do not know.

In computer programming, here’s how we would solve the same problem:

That’s a pretty simple example. But if you think about how many aspects of our lives are touched by technology, teaching kids these skills becomes necessary. As we depend on fewer people and organizations to provide us with more resources, it’s good to be self sufficient. The same could be said with learning how to grow a garden or fix a car. What’s wrong with learning how to do it yourself?

So what is being done to address this problem? Fortunately there are a few great non-profits in the US that are trying to tackle this problem head on. Probably one of the more popular non-profits is According to its website, has the following goals:

  • Bringing Computer Science classes to every K-12 school in the United States, especially in urban and rural neighborhoods. *Emphasis mine.

  • Demonstrating the successful use of online curriculum in public school classrooms

  • Changing policies in all 50 states to categorize C.S. as part of the math/science “core” curriculum

  • Harnessing the collective power of the tech community to celebrate and grow C.S. education worldwide

  • Increasing the representation of women and students of color in the field of Computer Science.

Here’s a great promotional video from their site:

There are also two great non-profits that are specifically aimed at helping young girls learn how to code: Girls Who Code and Girls Develop It.

Coding shouldn’t just be limited to children either. Could you imagine what could be done if we were able to teach, empower and hire one percent of the unemployed population by teaching them to code?

15 years ago, access to resources were limited. But now a lot of the barriers have been removed and the tools are there. We just need someone to step up and accept the challenge.