Last week New York City tech entrepreneur Patrick McConlogue made a bit of a clumsy splash onto the front pages of tech news outlets when he proposed a plan to teach the “unjustly” homeless how to code. Initial reactions lambasted McConlogue for his arrogance and insensitivity, implying that homeless people need coding skills about as much as they need DVD players or beauty products.
But then a funny thing happened. McConlogue’s “experiment” involved offering a homeless gentleman the choice between $100 cash and a free laptop with Java textbooks and coding lessons, and the gentlemen in question opted for the lessons. It’s too early to know how it all might turn out, but it seems as though the press – quite rightly, we believe – is finally getting around to acknowledging that McConlogue is doing something to help the homeless, which is more than many of us can say.
Still, while the program is doing fantastic work, there remain some cultural issues that seem nearly incomprehensible to most of the rest of America. One of the students, a 9th grader developing apps for the iPhone, was asked if he’d be interested in attending Stanford once he graduated high school. He seemed reluctant at first, and when asked why, his answer proved as telling as it did heartbreaking: “In my neighborhood, if I wear red I’ll get shot.”