Original question from Quora:

What are the negatives of trying to push everyone to learn how to code?

My Answer:

To me there is a huge downside to trying to push everyone to learn how to code, but it’s probably not the problem you might think. Allow me to explain…

There is a well known phenomenon that some cultures embrace more than others. It is an obsession with success and trying to make sure the next generation has it better than you did.

It’s a noble, but flawed idea where the outcome can in fact be worse than if people were left to their own ideas.

For example, there are thousands of people every year who do everything that they can to become highly paid professionals like doctors, lawyers, or engineers because those jobs pay the best and seem to offer the best life.

Many people see this and do everything they can to make sure their children become doctors, lawyers, or engineers. I mean, they will push their kids up the mountain like Sisyphus if they have to, even if the kids don’t want to be doctors.

What the child wants doesn’t matter.

This can often lead to someone spending their entire life trying to live out a dream that isn’t their own. A future they never wanted. A version of themselves that isn’t them at all.

What if that person really wanted to be a school teacher? Wouldn’t it be better for them to be a teacher instead of a doctor if they would love being a teacher, but hate being a doctor?

That is difficulty in forcing someone else to pursue your dream for them.

You see, people need to take ownership of their own dreams if they are going to live a good life. Many people regret not chasing their own dreams when they die, they suffer the sadness of inaction toward the best version of themselves.

And here is how this connects to everybody being pushed to learn how to code…

When I was ten or eleven, we got our first modern computer. It was a Packard Bell and it ran Windows 3.11 for Workgroups, and we had AOL internet access.

I fell in love with computers and decided I wanted to be a computer programmer when I grew up. I love writing code so much that I taught myself in junior high by reading books and doing my best to build things.

Now I’m a senior software developer at a successful company and I enjoy my work. It’s something I fell in love with and I still love writing code.

Nobody told me I had to do this. In fact, in the 90’s computers were still nerdy and there was no social benefit to being a computer nerd. Sure, people thought I’d do well someday, but it didn’t help me get dates or anything.

Yes, now computers are ubiquitous and everybody is pushing to get into technology, but I think that’s a mistake.

A lot of people who don’t love technology will get in it for the money and it will make them very unhappy. I feel bad for anyone who makes themselves unhappy for the sake of making money. I don’t think it’s worth it.

I hope that people stay away from learning to code unless they have a burning desire to build something. And the people that do have a burning desire to write code, I hope they don’t let anything stop them.

In the end, I’m not worried about code being popular. Those who love it will stick with it. Those who don’t will find another hot job market to jump into in a few years.

-Brian

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