Hadi Partovi, Code.org, Maria Klawe, Harvey Mudd College, Code Conference

Asa Mathat


Maria Klawe is the president of Harvey Mudd College. Hadi Partovi is the founder of Code.org, a prominent online educational movement. Despite their different approaches to education, their goals are aligned: They want more people to learn how to code.

In fact, during their joint interview with Walt Mossberg during the Code Conference, Partovi said people should “know what SSL is, just like they know what H20 is or HIV is.”

But don’t try to tell them more STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is the answer — at least not with this crowd. “It drives me crazy when Obama says we need more STEM graduates,” Klawe said. Here are the highlights from their Code Conference session with Walt Mossberg:


The video makes the point that in the 1980s about a third of CS students were women, with a much smaller proportion today. I was a CS student in the early '80s at a Southern Californian university. About 1/3 of the students were indeed women. But most of them were either Vietnamese or Laotian. Following the Viet Nam war, California in particular had a lot of immigrants from these two countries, and from talking to them I learned that they simply saw CS as a very good shot at a high paying job (over half the students in this population were women). They didn't have any cultural hangups over being seen as geeks or that women shouldn't go into the sciences.

Today I suspect even their children have largely adopted the same cultural feelings towards the sciences as the rest of the US population.


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