Asa and his code language

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 156 views 

Ella Beth may have told her Pap paw Asa that computer coding was easy. But this week, Asa Hutchinson, aka Pap paw Asa and the Arkansas governor-elect, met some initial barriers to quickly implement his new plan into Arkansas’ school system.

Don’t be deterred, just yet. This is a promise Hutchinson made and sold to voters that he wants implemented. But what  Hutchinson didn’t count on was how far back around the curve and how resistant the Arkansas public school’s educational system would be.

Remember in the campaign one of Hutchinson’s most effective campaign ads was a soft piece praising his granddaughter Ella Beth for learning computer coding on her own – sans any instruction from her private school education in central Arkansas.

Hutchinson, touting national studies on future job growth potential for young people, said he wanted “every Arkansas high school” to implement computer sciences and computer coding as a math or science credit. It was to be just a matter of a small curriculum change, no big costs associated with the change, Hutchinson noted in stump speeches all across Arkansas.

Sounds great. I have warned the candidate, in this very space, it was an idea that would be slow to be implemented in the academic realms of Arkansas public school policies.

When polling a group at the Arkansas STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Coalition in Little Rock this past week, our governor-elect may have seen firsthand the roadblocks to quick passage. Asking how many high school teachers are equipped and prepared to teach computer sciences, this STEM coalition could not give the governor-elect a valid number. And the numbers they tossed about ranged from four to 20.

Four to 20 in the entire state!

Sardonically, Hutchinson was quoted by the press attending the meeting saying: “That is amazing.”

I agree. There are more teachers in Arkansas teaching botany, Greek and Latin, and even construction technology “than four to 20.”

Hutchinson has laid down his plan. He expects to file a bill to implement computer science courses in the public schools as one of the first 10 bills his administration offers and hopefully passes in the upcoming session, a scant month away.

He also said he hopes to see the Department of Education leading the way for a “game plan,” to implement such a change for Arkansas’ students and the state’s future job growth. This is a warning. The governor-elect also said he doesn’t expect this to be a long, drawn out qualification process. No, to a two- to three-year implementation schedule, he warned those listening this past week. In fact, Hutchinson in his no-holds barred management style gave a very small hint of his impatience for bureaucratic delays.

“…I see this (change) could be led by the Department of Education, but we need to have the right people in the room to do this.”

As Governor, Asa can get the right people in the room. If thwarted in his plan, it may take him a while to assemble folks who are like minded. But do not doubt him on this topic. This computer sciences proposal is important to him. It is important, at first blush, to future wage earners, like granddaughter, Ella Beth, as well.

In all fairness, the state Department of Education approved a similar program to what the governor-elect has promised. Some tweaking of this new and approved plan, possibly merging it where the governor-elect wants to go with his bold plan from the campaign, will be necessary.

Or else the right people may soon be filling that room to make those changes.

Remember everyone. It is a Brave New World these days in Arkansas with a candidate who promised us: “As governor we will hit the ground running and never look back.”

And he means it.