As a teacher, I have spent the last eighteen years of my life dedicated to teaching technology skills and computer science. One of the most rewarding aspects of this work is when I am visited years later by former students and they have become successful coders or engineers, and I know that part of their introduction to their chosen field was in one of my classes. The work that has been done by organizations like ACM, NSF, WIT, WITI and CSTA to name just a few, has been a joy to watch unfold. Here are some of the truths. The glass ceiling for women in technology has been real. The declining numbers in enrollments in CS and engineering programs by women has been real. This past year, the work done by code.org has made amazing progress. Billions of lines of code written by students, regardless of gender or ethnicity has been nothing short of inspiring for classroom teachers like myself.
Now the ugly flip side. When you bring an issue to the forefront, you have to worry that some folks will take exception and try to create a satire in the name of humor. Enter codebabes.com. Unfortunately, it was brought to my attention by an article in the Washington Post. While not wanting to give it legitimacy by naming it, it is difficult to skip the opportunity to express my outrage. It flies in the face of the years I have spent trying to teach students to code for good.
Fifteen years ago, my school had a guest speaker from the Internet Crimes Task Force. He spoke about computer hackers and portrayed the typical hacker as a teenage male – yes, usually a teenager, but always male. I wondered why this was the case, and decided that either there weren’t any female hackers, or they were so much better than their male counterparts because they had never been caught! As a middle and high school teacher, I have taught several talented young men. Some of them had great potential as hackers. I always felt a sense of obligation when I worked with them to try to get them to understand their potential and show them that it as important to do good things with their code. Sadly, the spirit, which is intended by codebabes, is dangerous to women and dangerous to our future. Too bad they couldn’t create a site that would not be offensive to women and offensive to computer science teachers. It is clear that the authors possess a really immature sense of humor, and we can only hope that someday, when they grow up, they will be ashamed at their sophomoric actions. At the minimum, let’s hope that if they pass on their coding skills to future offspring – such offspring are all girls, and that the antics of their fathers in their younger days, doesn’t dissuade them from bright coding futures.