High School and Hacking

It’s 2013, and the thriving subculture of computer developers is at an all time high. From my observations, more and more hackers are coming out of the mix. Loads of programming-related websites and forums (i.e. Hacker News, r/programming, StackOverflow) have become powerful sources for hacker news, information, and most importantly knowledge. It is this evocation of knowledge that is bringing more people to the hacker scene. Whether they believe it to be cool, a money making opportunity, or just a fun hobby, new programmers are flocking to the scene. I, personally, have been noticing this urge for knowledge prevalent at my high school. And so the question comes out; in this new age of programmers, how does hacking and high school come together?

Well then, let me begin with a little background. I have a computer programming club at my school were I often teach the basics of programming to whoever walks in. And at this club, I see a mixture of two different kinds of students who wish to code; the gamer kind and the ‘I don’t know’ kind. The gamers are among those who want to make hardcore FPS games in the most minimal amount of time, not the easiest to teach, but still attendant. Subsequently, the ‘I don’t know’ students are honestly my favorite of the two. They’re just there to learn cool stuff and see what happens, and this hacker mentality they all share is perfect for the high school scene.

Why is it perfect? I’ll tell you. As a high school student I find it hard to get internships and part-time jobs as a programmer, I’ve had some offers, but few of my interest. This means I usually have to contribute to an open source project. Personally, and as a student, I prefer working on my own side-projects to make up my time, so I choose to create applications on the side. With the student gamer mentality of learning in the easiest way possible (not all of them are like this obviously), it is not likely that they will create their FPS game, for they are not appreciating the code as much as they are utilizing it. This dilemma gives them the idea that programming is only a means to an end, and with this idea, it is not likely that a hacker will do anything truly wonderful (or be a hacker at all). Since they have to make their own apps on the side, like me, and don’t appreciate programming or truly enjoy it, they are forced to give up on their conquest to create a hardcore FPS game. I find that some of the students I teach to code share a quality with those who attempt to learn programming for making money, changing the world, or making the ‘next big thing’. This similarity is the need to understand that learning how to program comes with persistence.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with learning to program for money, status, etc., but it all comes with a price; time. What all high school kids have in common is an abundance of time. And I’m sure any hacker would agree that time is a programmer’s greatest ally, or enemy. What the ‘I don’t know’ students have is an interest in something they know nothing about, which is great. Although they don’t have a broad long-term plan for programming, they still have the eagerness. If you are someone who hopes to learn to code for a specific reason, I suggest you have this mentality. Keep your dreams, but love to code. Make programming something you look forward to, and then the success will follow.

Hacking and high school are an odd mix. You are at an institution that revolves around learning, but your life is surrounded by application. Many high school students these days want to be programmers, and that’s awesome. They want to build things, and that’s awesome. But the true challenge is getting there. If you learn to love to code, it makes it a whole lot easier, but if you don’t love it, or simply can’t, then maybe it’s not for you. I’m just a kid and I have a lot to learn when it comes to programming, but I believe looking forward to how much I have to learn, rather than resenting it, is the secret to furthering my knowledge. HACKING IS FUN WHEN YOU MAKE IT FUN!