Teach Me How to Startup

Mark Zuckerberg, Will.i.Am and Chris Bosh Star in Infomercial About Learning to Code

How to make an American superpower.
Screen shot 2013-02-26 at 10.42.41 AM

(Photo: Code.org)

Agitprop about “coding as the new literacy,” lost momentum last year somewhere around the time adults felt compelled to issue public apologies to Codecademy for ignoring their email tutorials. But with President Obama shouting out high tech high schools in the State of the Union–and Chinese hackers inspiring a possible “Sputnik moment“–the cause of educating young minds in the ways of coding seems to have taken on new urgency.

Witness, for example, this video produced by Code.org, a nonprofit devoted to enhancing computer programming education. “Learn about a new ‘superpower’ that isn’t being taught in in 90% of US schools,” the description advertises. Wait, America still has a chance at staying a superpower? Tell me more!

The five-minute spot attempts to make coding seem more approachable–you don’t have be a genius is the commercial’s refrain–by equating it with other creative, challenging disciplines like learning an instrument and playing sports. Not sold? Here, let Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh convince you. Mr. Bosh, whose bio reads “NBA All-Star, Coded In College,” tells the camera about the after-school program called Whiz Kids (ok, legit adorable) where he first learned to write code. “People found out. They laughed at me and I was like, man I don’t care, I think it’s cool and I’m leaning a lot and some of my friends have jobs.”

The whole thing ends with Will.i.am (“Created the Black Eyed Peas, Now Taking Coding Classes”) calling coders the new rock stars.

The video gives nod to all the different disciplines where knowing programming can help: Banking! Agriculture! Entertainment! But Code.org’s donors since corporations like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook provided support for the video and Code.org’s advisors include investors like Marc Andreessen and Ron Conway, there are plenty of shots of cushy startup cafeterias, scooters, music rooms, and other amenities.

The only thing we can’t believe is that self-appointed Glass Ambassador Sergey Brin missed an opportunity to show off his new toy.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com