When I was 7 years old, I knew the capitals of most major countries and their currencies. I had to, if I wanted to track down a devious criminal mastermind in the computer game “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” On screen, the ACME Detective Agency would spit out clues like notable landmarks to help players identify the city where Carmen’s globe-trotting henchmen were hiding out. I wouldn’t learn how to pronounce Reykjavik for more than a decade, but I could tell you that its currency was called the krona.
I was the child of Indian immigrants, and like any begrudging Bengal tiger cub, I penciled in fill-in-the-blank maps and memorized multiplication tables after dinner. I was much more motivated to learn about geography by chasing Carmen Sandiego on the family Macintosh Plus. I couldn’t confidently point to Iceland on a map. But I did become a technology reporter.
A huge nationwide push is underway, funded by the nonprofit Code.org’s corporate and billionaire donors, from Amazon and Google to Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, to introduce American schoolchildren to coding and to redefine it as a basic skill to be learned alongside the three R’s. Code.org’s curriculum has been adopted by 20,000 teachers from kindergarten to 12th grade.