Today marks the launch of the "Hour of Code," a massive publicity campaign to promote computer science education in schools across the globe. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the approximately $1 million campaign was launched by Code.org, a nonprofit organization that has so far raised $10 million from supporters like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and major technology companies. More than 33,000 schools in 166 countries will dedicate at least one hour this week to computer science education as part of Code.org's initiative, which is timed to coincide with this year's Computer Science Education Week.
The effort has earned endorsements from tech companies, celebrities, and politicians, including both President Barack Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R - VA), who each released video statements urging students to participate.
"Don't just download the latest app, help design it," Obama said in a video address released this week. "Don't just play on your phone, program. No one's born a computer scientist, but with a little hard work — and some math and science — just about anyone can become one."
The Hour of Code is part of Code.org's broader campaign to encourage computer science education at more classrooms, bridging what many see as a growing gap between Silicon Valley and US curricula. The Bureau of Labor estimates that more than 140,000 computer science jobs are added to the American economy every year, while according to the National Science Foundation, just 40,000 college students are graduating with computer science degrees.
"In California, computer science has the same classification as a class on horseshoe making."
Code.org founder Hadi Partovi, a former Microsoft executive, aims to reverse that trend by promoting computer programming among students and educators, though there are institutional hurdles, as well. One of the problems, he says, is that many US states recognize programming courses as an elective, rather than a core component of math and science classes. States like Washington and Idaho changed their policies this year, though many — including California — have not.
"In California, computer science has the same classification as a class on horseshoe making," Partovi told the Wall Street Journal.