I’m a celebrity…learn to code!

Will i.am was featured in a BBC report this week on the effect that low IT skills have on young  people’s job prospects  BBC News – Prince’s Trust: Poor IT skills hurt youth job chances . One argument might be that a more inspirational story might have been how a young person had raged against the machine to work their way up and how others in the same position could take the same path etc. however that is unlikely to make the national news or help to get the core message from the Princes Trust out.

When a wealthy and popular celebrity tells kids that they should want to be scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians rather than aspiring to be a wealthy and popular celebrity I think you have to applaud their altruism.

This case exemplifies a growing approach to education and more and more we see prominent public figures evangelising about education broadly or about particular subjects. Celebrity endorsement for charities or charitable causes is not a new thing but I see a definite increase in how education benefits from it.

I might expect it from public figures from industry in related fields. When (amongst others) Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey endorsed the teaching of coding and computer science in schools recently (see www.code.org ) there was a certain amount of logic to it. However you can’t say the same about Ashton Kutcher, Chris Bosh, Snoop Dog or Will i.am, all of whom are part of the same movement.

“I’m taking a computer science course, because I’m passionate about where the world’s going, curious about it and I want to contribute,” Will i.AM told the BBC and I’ll confess to being a little jealous that this kind of championing of education wasn’t there when I was a student.

I’m not going to try and claim that a lack of celebrity encouragement has held me back and many young people excel without it, but offering young people role models for their education beyond teachers and family members must be a good thing.

Modern media has had an impact in that it is easier to get messages of this type out quickly and widely. I won’t say how old I am but let’s just say that in the year I left school there was an article published saying that ‘no online database will replace your daily newspaper…and no computer network will change the way government works’.

But even given social changes linked to new technologies there is a change to the better in how we value education and how public figures use their status as a platform to inspire others.

I don’t like the phrase ‘making education cool’ and maybe that’s not the crux of it – it’s more that young people should see education and academic endeavor as a cool way to excel and I admire any public figure who is will.i.ng (sorry – couldn’t resist it!) to encourage them.