A few recent stories, in addition to my own experience teaching youth in schools, has got me thinking about something that may or may not already occur. I barely know what I’m talking about it, so distinctly file this under #justsayin and feel free to lambast any of my following ideas as terrible ones.
When a child demonstrates a strong inclination and passion for computer coding and hacking, should we not give them… a special education? And by special, I mean, like X-Men Mutant Academy (thanks to my friend Melanie for that one) special. I mean, “Listen, kid, you have a superpower of sorts. The passion, skill, and ability you possess for ones and zeros can have a massive, positive effect in the world. It can also do great damage.”
This is where I think prodigious ability in coding is different to many other ‘superpowers’. When you are an adolescent going through massive changes, and perhaps a wee dose (or more) of teenage angst, you have a tendency to make impulsive, if not outright bad decisions. You also love experimentation with all manner of things. So what does it mean when a completely normal teenager like this develops, often on her own, an utterly exceptional ability to exploit security flaws on networks and computers? In my experience, youth who have ventured into this unchartered territory soon find school work incredibly irrelevant. And I think we all know the kinds of behaviour boredom can breed in any teen, let alone one who has discovered she can DDos just about anyone she wishes.
In a world where it’s completely commonplace to meet a student who self-learns very advanced computer skills which far exceed the capabilities of most of the adults in their lives, how can we help them use their powers for good?