Programming preschoolers, a debate by Thomas Friedman

Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist, brought up a very interesting debate in his column titled “New Rules.”

He wrote it from China, a country that is predominantly known for producing intelligent, successful children.

A picture by Jon Lim of Estonian children learning to program computers in first grade. This is a screenshot taken from

The Chinese culture overall is one that values achievement.

Author Amy Chua, who wrote the memoir “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” said that her children were raised to think that an A- was a terrible grade and that they could only participate in activities that could potentially lead to winning a gold medal someday.

Friedman said this way of thinking led him to think about a new program that is being developed in Estonia, a small country located in northern Europe.

According to, Estonian first graders are being taught to program and code websites.

The reasoning behind this comes from the country’s desire to increase development, which stemmed from the creation of Skype in 2003.

Participation in the programming class is a choice, however. Mozilla executive director Mark Surman explained that children decide if they want to be content managers or consumers around age eight.

In “New Rules,” Friedman takes a stance on this issue and suggests that Americans develop more vocational-training classes for young students. He suggests that American students should strive for the practical training of the Estonian and the academic excellence of the Chinese.

However, in many ways, America is already jumping on this band wagon.

Carlos Bueno, Facebook engineer, recently wrote a children’s book titled “Lauren Ipsum.” It is a fairytale that introduces children to computer programming.

Bueno said that programming should be a part of everyone’s education.

“The first step to controlling your life in the modern world is understanding computers,” he said.

With all of this said and done, there is another side to this argument.

President Obama and former president Clinton have both said that if you just “work hard and play by the rules” you should expect that the American system will deliver you a decent life and a chance for your children to have a better one.

Friedman argues that this slogan is out dated and needs to change.

“Technology and globalization are wiping out lower-skilled jobs faster, while steadily raising the skill level required for new jobs,” he said.

It is apparent that Obama is catching on to the new wave of technological education. He is quoted by Friedman as saying, “We have to prepare more Americans for the new jobs that are being created in a world fueled by new technology.”

To conclude Friedman’s article, he questions if the success-driven Chinese will follow in Estonia’s footsteps. He feels that American students should follow suite with children in Estonia and be introduced to vocational-training classes due to the recession and the increasing demand for jobs in technology.


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