It's all PR
And that's not all bad.
Education is big business, and it's going to be funded either privately or publicly. Private funding rarely works for the masses, so it's going to be political. It's easy to make PR a whipping boy, but it is necessary to get people on board with funding the education. From our viewpoint (I make some El Reg readership assumptions, of course), these coding stunts are silly. But what really happens?
I'm in Southern California, which is slightly different politically than bubble-land, but does have things in common, particularly what was called "Proposition 13," a "tax-revolt" from the start of the Reagan era, cutting the increase in property taxes that fund schools. People will argue with me, but I think it is evident that that was a big part of the reason for the decline of California public schools.
So schools have had to scramble to fund things, and many things have been cut, such as music education. Some places have a variant of STEM called STEAM, where the A is for Arts. Local school boards can convince the public and politicians to fund such things.
My kids went to what is considered a crappy school district, if you just look at the gross achievement numbers. But those numbers don't tell the whole story, as there is a bifurcated distribution - a whole lot of average kids, and a group of bright kids. The latter often come from children of, say, Qualcomm, Rockstar, Genentech technocrats and so forth who live in the various bedroom communities.
So the school board can say they are supporting STEAM, and have some excellent preparation to feed into universities for those tracks. They can also leverage magnet school funds, which are to create good schools in low income areas. My kids have gone through magnet schools, and the results have been excellent.
There is a lot of dependency on individual leadership (ie, optimistic principals) in the schools, so results can be uneven. For example, they built a new STEAM high school, but it was weak on everything except the A, so my older boy went to the older school, where again there was a bifurcation - his peers were all really smart, too. Over the course of several years, the STEAM school switched gears to an actual more technological focus, and now my younger boy is already programming games and learning proper UI's and preparing for AP exams.
When people ask me, as a decades-long techie, if they should major in CS, I tend to say "no." Most of the real-world work really requires domain expertise elsewhere, the stuff taught in CS programs is useful in only a few. A lot of the programs are moving towards particular frameworks or fads, which is really the opposite of what should be taught, which are the basics of logic and clear thinking. Particular skills will come and go, and only representative skill sets should be taught, so people can adapt to whatever is big when they are actually working.
So even though we can be haters on individual silly stunts, the STEM concept serves a good purpose and really should be supported. You just never know who will benefit from just one little sparkle on a unicorn.