A Modest Proposal: Please Don’t Learn to Code Because It Will Damage Your Tiny Brain

Jeff Atwood wrote a post on his Coding Horror blog entitled “Please Don’t Learn to Code” in which he rails against the idea that “everyone should learn programming”.

And I couldn’t agree more.

People, not everyone needs to learn programming. Only some gifted individuals (of which we professional software developers are included) need to learn programming. For the rest of you, unless you are srsly committed it will just be a meaningless chore that may damage your tiny brains.

Coding is just like surgery: if an amateur decides to code their own Angry Birds clone as a fun little project, people will literally die. Those are the stakes, folks. That’s why it should be left to those who are explicitly pursing it as a professional career.

TL; DR link

You have my assurance that I find Bloomberg’s encouragement of people to learn a technical skill personally offensive. It filled me with a rage that was only subdued after discouraging a small child from learning to play the harmonica. (What’s the kid going to do with that skill anyway? There are better ways he could spend his valuable time.)

Meanwhile, Jeff doesn’t hold back when he deals his death blow:

“Can you explain to me how Michael Bloomberg would be better at his day to day job of leading the largest city in the USA if he woke up one morning as a crack Java coder?”

Gauntlet… THROWN. The especially insidious thing (which Jeff shows that he himself is well aware of) is that even if Bloomberg’s serpentine journey into forbidden coding knowledge ended up being useless (which, yeah, maybe the mayor doesn’t need to know programming), his tweet has terrible implications for those he is in communion with. The man has 252,000 followers on Twitter. It’s as though the point of his tweet wasn’t just a casual announcement of his own 2012 resolutions, but also an encouragement for citizens to educate themselves on a technical subject.


Think of the anarchy that would result if a fraction of them took it upon themselves to learn a new skill that is ordinarily considered not-for-average-people. They might find out that programming wasn’t as unapproachable as they previously thought!

Those who tout the “everyone can learn to code” and “coding is increasingly becoming essential” line are unaware of how preposterous their claims are. To give an example, Jeff replaces “programming” with “plumbing” in a quote from Tim O’Reilly:

Exactly! Plumbing and programming in this context are completely comparable which is why this twisted quote proves Jeff’s point. The demand for programmers isn’t high at all, and we can only expect it to decline as the 21st century progresses. And even if that wasn’t true, you don’t begin the journey to learn programming from a website like Codecademy. When has anyone ever used the Internet to learn something?

Jeff’s bullet-pointed reasons that follow his courageous, speak-truth-to-power words are at once a soothing symphony to the nerves of our exclusive software guild and a salvo against those who dare think they could learn to fish for themselves. I iterate them here with my own praising commentary:

“It assumes that more code in the world is an inherently desirable thing. [...] You should be learning to write as little code as possible. Ideally none.”

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