The one talent we need in the digital future

Guest contribution by | 18.11.2019

For some years now, the call for programming lessons in schools has been growing ever louder. In the future, “coding” will be the most important talent you can bring with you. But I disagree!

Four or five years ago I noticed for the first time that more and more people are calling for programming as a subject in schools. There are some movements that massively support this, that are convinced that coding has to be part of the curriculum. Coding is the ultimate skill of the future. Without programming knowledge one would not be able to find a job in the future and programming abilities would be more and more important for private life. That’s why today’s curricula have to be supplemented by programming lessons.

Programming is the art of transferring commands comprehensibly to a machine. This is done using programming languages in which text is assembled into a long code, i.e. a long sequence of commands. This would make programming something that would basically fit into the curriculum of schools.

Programming from childhood on

There is a whole range of children’s games that are designed to promote the ability to program. For example, small figures should have a parkour, the player guides the figure with simple instructions around or over obstacles. “Take three steps forward. Turn right. Go two steps forward and jump over a block,” is how programming games look in their simplest form. Even the little ones should be introduced to programming in a playful way.

Mini-computers seem to have established themselves in schools. Equipped with everything that a large computer needs, plus an LED panel, various sensors and additional slots, for example, it offers plenty of scope for personal development.

But I am ambivalent. On the one hand, I don’t think that’s wrong at all when children understand what programming means and even learn it. I even think it’s important for them to learn what it means not just to operate a computer as a user, but to create something with it as well.

However, I don’t think that will be the top talent our children will need in the future. I do not believe that we all need to be able to program in order to survive in our professional and private lives. I believe that other skills will be much more important in the future: Gain information and question it critically. And it is precisely these skills that are neglected in today’s curricula!

One step at a time

I am firmly convinced that we must be able to research information and separate the truth from false information. It is getting easier and easier to put information on the net and spread it in no time at all. Deep fakes can anchor false information so deeply that we are convinced that Donald Trump sings “Imagine” with other heads of state. But the technology doesn’t have to be that modern. Much simpler are the possibilities of image processing, with which opinion makers can literally create an image in the minds of the recipients without much effort. There are not even elements to be falsified, it is often enough to set the image detail skillfully. And it is even easier to tear individual information out of a large context and make it a meaningful statement on its own.

The fact is that more and more information is pelting into us. There is an overwhelming amount of sources for information, because every single person who has access to the Internet can disseminate information there. With this large amount, we can no longer determine who the original sender of information was, nor can we assess the trustworthiness of the source.

A thought experiment

Please think back a few hundred years: there was once a time when houses were built from clay and straw. In winter the people froze, when it rained the houses collapsed. From today’s point of view it was a disaster. Then came the time when the people found a solution: Stone houses. From then on, the ultimate talent was bricklaying. It was clear to everyone that stone houses were the future and that without knowledge as stonemasons and bricklayers one could never gain a foothold anywhere. Stonemasons could not find enough apprentices and the prices for a finished house rose to astronomical heights.

That sounds absurd and long ago? Not at all. Of course a lot is self-evident for us today. But we are, compared to back then, at a similarly important point where our (working) life changes. And we also face important challenges: If everyone had been able to build a house where and how they wanted it at that time, it would have quickly created chaos. It was important to plan in advance and thus create settlements, villages and entire cities.

If every child today would learn coding without thinking at school, the chaos would probably be similar. People would continue to be recipients of orders, only the tools would change.

Coding without thinking

It is not about “small” scams, which are supposed to give a company an advantage or push an opponent against the wall. Already today whole election campaigns are denied and won with purposefully prepared and even wrong information. This means that the influence is drawing much wider circles, beneficiaries are no longer just individual companies, but sometimes entire countries.

Employees who do not question their actions become tools of their organisations. What used to be the assembly line is now the computer. The result is determined by the client, the employee only carries it out in large numbers.

Coding and thinking

Today more than ever, we need to use what we teach our children at school to shape the society of tomorrow.

Computers give us the opportunity to make the world a wonderful place. But for that to happen, people need to find answers to questions like “what does the world need” and “how do I make the most sense of myself and my environment” before they start programming a solution.

In fact, more and more schools are offering programming now. I don’t think that’s wrong at all, but I hope that other things don’t miss out. There is my increased request to all those who have it in their hands, who have some possibility to change the world a little, be it teachers, headmasters or parents: Don’t blindly follow the trend to extend the existing lessons with the subject “programming”. It is not enough to put children at a computer and teach them programming languages.


Note: You can also listen to this article as a podcast in German:

Podcast Chancenfinder
In every change project there comes a point where the people involved don’t know what to do – then the time pressure increases and the resistance grows louder, but the successes just dribble away. High time for individual solutions! Talk to Stephanie Selmer and let her help you.



Stephanie Selmer has published more articles in the t2informatik Blog, including

t2informatik Blog: Change Management is dead - long live continuous change

Change Management is dead – long live continuous change

t2informatik Blog: Introversion or Extraversion

Introversion or Extraversion

t2informatik Blog: My Wish List to Scrum Master

My Wish List to Scrum Master

Stephanie Selmer
Stephanie Selmer

Strong companies do not only rely on new IT systems for their way into the future, but above all on their employees. Stephanie Selmer supports organisations in making changes, improving cooperation, achieving common goals and finding IT professionals. Her clients include medium-sized companies from all sectors who see digitalisation as an opportunity to empower their employees.