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Reading, Writing, Ruby?

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  • Needs Revision. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by masternerdguy (2468142) on Monday November 28, 2011 @11:29PM (#38198382)
    Assuming they do this the way public schools in the USA teach programming, don't bother. They've managed to suck all creativity and wonder from the process by making every activity copying code from a textbook without teaching the theory behind it, or mentioning the possible applications. I've seen so many people take high school level programming courses and come out not knowing how to program. This isn't because they're dumb, this is because it is taught in the same way you make someone memorize a poem they don't want to read. College courses are fine, but public school courses need revision. Creativity and real world applications of programming concepts is completely missing there.
    • Re:Needs Revision. (Score:4, Informative)

      by JoeMerchant (803320) on Monday November 28, 2011 @11:39PM (#38198486) Homepage

      Read the Pi schtick [raspberrypi.org] - they are all about changing computer instruction into something cool, and getting away from making everybody into electronic secretaries.

    • Re:Needs Revision. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by OliWarner (1529079) on Monday November 28, 2011 @11:40PM (#38198492) Homepage

      I can't tell if that's an improvement over the "This is how MS Office works" ICT training that most UK students get now. I had to teach myself relational database basics and a few programming languages while in school because the school didn't have the courses (or the teachers) to push a real syllabus. A very few of the bigger A-Level colleges get it right but they need to be offering this sort of thing to 10 year olds.

      And yes, if this if going to work, it'll need teachers who know how to program. Given that there are about three of those in the entire country, the government is going to have to get working on this now if it wants to make a change within the next five years.

      • I can't tell if that's an improvement over the "This is how MS Office works" ICT training that most UK students get now. I had to teach myself relational database basics and a few programming languages while in school because the school didn't have the courses (or the teachers) to push a real syllabus.

        When I was 14, our High School comp-sci teacher had the good sense to realize that about 6 of us (out of a graduating class of 200ish) were sufficiently advanced that there was nothing he could teach us in a traditional lecture and homework format, they actually let us have an hour a day of "independent study comp-sci" in place of sleeping through yet another pointless class. Though we weren't required to, most IS people did most of the lecture projects anyway... as I recall, I produced 3 lines of code tha

      • Re:Needs Revision. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Tastecicles (1153671) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:12AM (#38198722)

        I know precisely what you mean. I almost went insane when I did ECDL (just for the piece of paper that said "I know how to switch a computer on"), and after several years of Wordperfect, then Lotus Office, Star Office, then OpenOffice, I was faced with Microsoft Office 2000 and thought to myself "What the fuck is this messy shitpile I've got to work with?". Had to take everything I'd learned about decent interfaces and useful scripting and practically forget it all as I was forced to work with the hammer and chisel that tried to pass itself off as commercial-grade software.

        Luckily I could get back to OOo when I took subsequent courses and the funny thing is, the course administrators couldn't tell.

      • the school didn't have the courses (or the teachers) to push a real syllabus

        And that's the real problem. My mother quit teaching because of all of the bullshit bureaucracy getting in the way of actually teaching children. I've done some lecturing, but there's no way I'd want to become a school teacher - the pay sucks in comparison to a programming job, the stress is higher, and the system seems to be taking the only rewarding part of the job away.

        I absolutely agree with TFA's premise. Programming is as much of a life skill now as writing was a hundred years ago. The problem

    • Re:Needs Revision. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Piranhaa (672441) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:28AM (#38198798)

      It's not just high school programming that's like this (at least where I'm from). This is happening in post-secondary education.

      I took Java EE - "Enterprise Edition" quite recently. We learned how to make enterprise grade web applications... Web forms with database back-ends.

      Now, I have a decent programming background (C, shell scripts, and php mostly). Lets just say I can't remember the first thing on how to reproduce anything that was taught in that class. It was all copying and pasting code blobs and lots of "s/oldword/newword", even for our midterm and final exams. Unfortunately they try to make those classes as easy as possible for everyone, but nobody truly learns anything. And fucks over the people who actually would like to learn something. The Java 101 class I took before taught me at least 100x more.

      For reference, I have to get my diploma in order to continue working with the current employer I'm with. While there are some things I do learn from these classes, the majority of it I already know.

    • by jbolden (176878)

      There are plenty of good public school programs for teaching computation. Alice for example came from work on Middle School computer programming and was able to teach creativity and discovery and basic concepts in programming. If your local schools suck run for school board.

    • The best is some theory and hand on work.

    • Re:Needs Revision. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cgenman (325138) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:18AM (#38199674) Homepage

      Programming isn't something that should be started in High School. Programming should be started in elementary school at the same time as math. You wouldn't expect to raise someone until High School on nothing but English Lit and PE and expect them to jump straight into Calculus in High School. Similarly, you can't expect that students will ambiently absorb the background needed to program well.

      They've got to start programming simple things when they're young and their brain is still forming.

  • by Fished (574624) <amphigoryNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday November 28, 2011 @11:31PM (#38198416)
    Information Science is a basic science, like any other, and in our world has a lot more immediate practical applications. It should be taught. Why can my son, very bright, in the 8th grade, tell me the layers of the atmosphere and the earths crust and evolution and basic physics, but can't tell me the difference between a bit and a byte? That's crazy.
    • Information Science is a basic science, like any other, and in our world has a lot more immediate practical applications. It should be taught. Why can my son, very bright, in the 8th grade, tell me the layers of the atmosphere and the earths crust and evolution and basic physics, but can't tell me the difference between a bit and a byte? That's crazy.

      Bits and bytes matter less and less, they're becoming the sub-atomic particles of Computer Science, interesting to some of the theory guys, but all the practical stuff is made up of bigger chunks. Or, that's the theory, at least. I still manipulate bits in my C++ code, but then, using C++ makes me somewhat archaic, too.

      • No, they don't "matter less and less". Larger structures are being built around them, but that's like saying the bigger and fancier the car, the less important the engine. It''s nonsense.

        You might be able to drive a car, but if anything goes wrong, if you don't know anything abut the engine, you're SOL. The same is true of programming. Maybe most of the time you can ignore those "little details" (just like you can your engine), but by Grid you'd better know about them if anything goes wrong. (And if you
        • No, they don't "matter less and less". Larger structures are being built around them, but that's like saying the bigger and fancier the car, the less important the engine. It''s nonsense. ...rambling automotive analogy edited for clarity... They matter less and less to the end users, yes. But they don't matter "less" to a programmer, any more than electrons matter "less" to someone doing modern electronics.

          Been there, done that with the degrees in electrical and computer engineering, 20 years in the field. I used to write 6502 assembly code by hand and peck in the op-codes in decimal... worked up through looking at compiler generated assembly and tweaking when necessary... I'm currently coding for a custom multi-core system realized in an FPGA and I have "looked under the hood" down to the assembly level exactly never in the last 15 years. gcc generates good working code from C/C++, it has its quirks and fl

      • by Bogtha (906264)

        Bits and bytes matter less and less, they're becoming the sub-atomic particles of Computer Science

        Consumer products aren't measured in subatomic particles. You don't buy n particles of milk when you are at the supermarket. But you do buy computers with hard drives measured in terabytes and you do buy Internet connections measured in megabits per second. If you don't understand the difference between bits and bytes, you can easily be mistaken about the performance of the product or service you are bu

    • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Monday November 28, 2011 @11:50PM (#38198574)

      Why can my son, very bright, in the 8th grade, tell me the layers of the atmosphere and the earths crust and evolution and basic physics

      Pay that no mind. I'm sure he'll forget all of that by next year.

      • When I was in the 8th Grade, I could tell you what a transistor or a laser was made from, and even some details about how they were manufactured. And how photolithography worked to build integrated circuits. But none of that had anything at all to do with school. It's a matter of interest. I was a science geek. Some people aren't. There's nothing wrong with being an artist.
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Information Science is a basic science, like any other, and in our world has a lot more immediate practical applications. It should be taught. Why can my son, very bright, in the 8th grade, tell me the layers of the atmosphere and the earths crust and evolution and basic physics, but can't tell me the difference between a bit and a byte? That's crazy.

      As crazy as the ideas of "coding is Computer Science", "coding is cool" or... oh, God... "coding video games [slashdot.org] is cool".

    • Bits and bytes are just the current implementation of digital logic. If I were to give a thousand-foot view, it would be more along the lines of hardware vs software, or a line of code vs a program, or computers versus networks, that sort of thing. The sort of introductory class that keeps a whole generation of kids from confusing 'the internet' with 'Google' (or AOL, or Apple if you prefer).

      The number of bits in a byte, or the very fact that computer logic is based on binary, these aren't terribly conseq

      • by Needlzor (1197267)
        Same applies to maths. Mathematical theories are abstract constructs that can (and sometimes are) replaced with more efficient ones, but that doesn't mean we should stop teaching the old ones, because knowing where we come from help assessing the relevance of new theories. Just as possibility theory hasn't wiped out probabilities, ternary logic hasn't wiped out boolean logic (and ternary computer have existed since 1870). The underlying logical models do matter.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Bits and bytes (well, bits anyway) are the ONLY feasible implementation of digital logic for the foreseeable future. Good Grid, man, have you ever tried to do anything useful in trinary? Good luck. Theoretically it's perfectly workable, but honestly I don't think humans were built to think that way.

        I do agree, however, that if a cheaper (not just workable) way were found to make the internal workings trinary, it is likely that it would be adopted, strictly for internal use. The interface to the machine w
        • Depends on the implementation, but a lot of expert systems use tri-state logic (true, false, undefined). There are a lot of variations on tri-state logic, and a number of them would be easier to implement on a computer that used trinary internally.
          • For logic levels there is always one/zero/nothing. Processors typically use only one and zero but it is perfectly legal to have have interfaces recognize nothing/undefined, basically off. I don't like the description of binary as on or off, because in practice this is not how it works. Logic one is typically >=2.7V and logic zero is =.8V (TTL).
    • Wait until he graduates and still can't change a tire, balance a checkbook, count back change or list his rights as an employee. As much as I wish computers were taught better in school, there are a LOT of more important stuff that has been missing for 30+ years.
  • by RichMan (8097) on Monday November 28, 2011 @11:41PM (#38198508)

    With a good teacher there is no need for whiz bang fancy pants hook'em when their your graphics.

    They need good teachers. Invest the money in training/sceening teachers properly. Cirriculum and all that other stuff is fluff from the people that want to sell text books and hardware.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      I'd say that an even better investment for that money -- better than textbooks and hardware, better than training and screening -- would be to pay teachers more. Honestly, teaching has got to be the most undervalued job in society today.

      First of all, the ability to teach something (especially complex matters) is very rare. Not everyone who understands a topic has the ability and the patience required to communicate it clearly to the uninitiated. So already you have a small pool of potential good teachers

      • I hope you are joking. The teachers I know are compensated for the lower wages with the best health and retirement benefits around. I'd prefer to see the 80 student classroom as it might get teachers and politicians working together a little more to improve things, lest the politician lose his job.
        • by Eric Green (627) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @01:30AM (#38199184) Homepage

          I am wondering what in the world you are talking about. During the three years I was teaching, a) my highest salary was the munificent sum of $21,800 per year (roughly $40K/year in today's dollars), b) I paid 100% of my health insurance costs (NO district subsidy of the cost), and c) the retirement benefit was 40% of my ginormous salary if I managed to survive 30 years without stroking out, being knifed or shot by one of my students, or being thrown under the bus by a school administrator upset that I cared about whether my students learned or not (and note that I did NOT pay into Social Security and if I had managed to get Social Security via some other job, there's a "double dipper" penalty in the SS formula that would take most of that away from me). In the years since I switched to doing software engineering rather than teaching mathematics I've sometimes worked 60+-hour weeks and multiple all-nighters but never worked anywhere near as hard as I worked as a teacher and get paid more than three times as much money than a teacher. If you paid me the same six-figure salary I make as a senior-level engineer I still wouldn't go back, because the job is thankless, never-ending, and utterly exhausting both physically and intellectually if you're doing it right. My hats off to those teachers who stay on the job and do it well, year after year, because the fools who criticize such teachers have not a clue.

          BTW, once you get above 35 students in a classroom, it becomes simply impossible to manage in a way conducive to learning. Above 35 students learning starts dropping off rapidly, past 40 it's just baby-sitting and make-work. Teachers know this the hard way. The fact that politicians and parents talk about 40+ student classrooms as if that were some reasonable solution to the cost of running public schools tells me that either a) they don't care about education, they just want free babysitting to keep kids off the streets, or b) they're clueless cretins who need to be drummed about the head with a clue stick. That is all.

    • With a good teacher there is no need for whiz bang fancy pants hook'em when their your graphics

      Speaking from own experience here

      There was no one in my own country who could teach me what I wanted to learn

      99.9% of the programming I learnt, I learned from many online Gurus

      I am not from US nor Europe. I was just an Asian geek who fell in love with technology

      When I started to go online, it was something known as "Fidonet"

      I graduated from 400 baud to 800 baud to finally 3200 modem.

      Then the 3rd world Asian country that I was from started offering "Internet", on 64Kbps broadband.

      I posted questions, many man

    • by LostMyBeaver (1226054) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:16AM (#38199666)
      In high school... I went to a special one called W.T. Clarke in Westbury New York... I had four teachers which were really amazing. The principle of the school decided that to teach computer programming, he'd hire a programmer. To teach electro-mechanical engineering, he'd hire a robotics engineer. To teach architecture, he'd hire an architect and to teach electronics repair, he's hire a TV repair technician. Oh... did the same for carpentry and other things as well.

      He believed that if he could find these people with a love for what they do, who felt that it would be more productive to teach 30 new kids each year than to do the work themselves. The initial pay was that of an entry level person of the field which they were specialists in and the costs to cover tuition to the university to become a certified teacher as well. Upon completion of their degree, they would gain the additional money that had been paying for their university classes as salary. The end result was, nearly every person on my friends list on FaceBook from those classes are now working high level positions in those fields..... or as teachers. That's about a 70% success rate.

      A key thing to understand about these courses is... they were elective courses. You had to do well in your normal classes or you'd be dropped from these courses. So, the students in these courses actually did better in their other classes than the other students as well. It's like forcing an athlete to pass their other classes or no football for them.

      This system worked incredibly... the problem was, the principle had to fight for this. He demanded of the school district the funds to make this happen. He probably interviewed 50 people for each position before choosing someone. After all, with the investment he would need to make in a person like this, he didn't want to have to do it every 3 years. So he picked the right person for the job. Of course, in that school, he did pretty much the same for nearly all his teachers and in a school with 1500 students, that's a huge job. But, the end result was one of the best schools in New York and possibly the whole of the U.S.. He didn't piss away money on fancy landscaping projects like they do in California. Whenever he got the money to do anything, he improved the academics of the school first and if there was any money left over, he bought a lawn mower. He would even attempt to convince the football team and cheerleading squad to run fund raisers for those things to avoid having to use the normal budget for those things.

      Mind you this was in the 80s and 90s. He set aside an area of the parking lot for kids to smoke. He felt strongly that he'd rather keep the students at school even if it meant letting them smoke on school grounds as opposed to having them skip classes to avoid getting caught smoking. These days, the parents almost certainly would lynch him for such a decision. Unlike other schools where the principle was some loser who deal out punishments. He let his subordinates take care of punishments. He on the other hand would take personal interest in any student he felt was going the wrong way. He understood that the kids who looked like "The wrong kind" could often simply be trying to define themselves as nonconformists. If some kids needed a "tough guy" reputation, he'd even pull them across the school and into his office by their ear for everyone to see, then sit down and play a game of chess with them and talk about things. Fact is, we as students didn't fear him for punishments. We feared that he would be disappointed in us... a raised eyebrow from him was enough to put nearly all the students in line.

      I can go on and on about him. But the important thing more than anything else is that he made the school what it was. He built a team of the right teachers. He sacrificed new paint in the hallways for better text books. He focused on what was important in a school. People always talk about "The right teachers" and "Higher pay", but in retrospect, I must admit that the key to success is great leadership. Start with that.
  • by forkfail (228161) on Monday November 28, 2011 @11:42PM (#38198518)

    Especially if paired with more math.

    I was lucky; my dad taught me BASIC and algebra in grade school. I was too young to realize that math was supposed to be hard and un-fun; as a partial result, all these years later, I make a good living off both.

    • by jd (1658)

      Good maths is absolutely essential. Without it, you can't understand the relationship between the theory and the practice. I'd say that academic writing skills are also valuable, as that teaches people how to be clear, organized, link appropriately and yet be efficient -- skills essential to quality computing and skills absolutely lacking with today's dweebs.

      There's a big dispute over what the terms "computer science" and "software engineering" really mean. I would argue that it doesn't matter, that a quali

    • by kenh (9056)

      The benefit you got wasn't from the subject, it was the manner of instruction ('d argue). I wonder if your dad taught you auto repair if you might not now find yourself making a comfortable living off of that skil set. Or what if he taught you woodworking skills? Plumbing? Electrical work? Masonry?

      Your dad took you under his wing and shared something he valued with you for a long time - that is hadly the same as a classroom with 20-30 students of various interest levels being forced to progress at the pace

  • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Monday November 28, 2011 @11:43PM (#38198520)
    I was under the impression that computer science was a bubble degree: the latest degree that people with any shred of scientific acumen and no clue where they wanted to go in life acquired as their ticket to an upper-middle class paycheck. So what's surprising and disastrous about the bubble bursting? Isn't that what bubbles do?

    I always hear people on slashdot bitching that half the youngsters getting computer science degrees today are incompetent code monkeys at best, and yet then I read stories the next week about the problem of declining interest or falling numbers in comp-sci education.

    Which one is the truth? Shouldn't you be happy to see enrollments decline? Aren't you glad to see fewer incompetent, bobble-headed lemmings graduating and going out to make a bad name for all of you self-proclaimed 'competent' computer scientists?
    • It's human nature. Everyone wants to whine how those beneath them are incompetent pricks. It makes them feel superior.

      Without the lower ranks, the illusion of superiority is gone.

      So yes, they want the incompetent people under them and they want to whine.

      </sarcasm>

    • That is the real reason for declining enrollments. Also the reason that the smarter students are avoiding CS/IT.

      Why go through all that trouble only to have your job offshored, or to end up training your H1B replacement?

      • by kenh (9056)

        Better to study what, exactly?

        College/University is not a trade school, intended to prepare a student for a particular job..

        • by bky1701 (979071) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @01:37AM (#38199226) Homepage
          "College/University is not a trade school"

          Yes it is. Of the people who go to college, only a tiny minority will say it is because they want to learn for the sake of learning. Likely, because learning no longer requires attendance at a physical university. What a university provides is a sort of certification. Everyone with a serious goal in life goes because they more or less have to go, in order to be allowed into certain fields. Getting into those fields makes a better life.

          I might agree with you somewhat, so far as college does not teach a trade. It is a costly exercise in bureaucracy and wasting of 4-6 years of everyone's time at taxpayer expense for people who do not want to be there (for good reason). Of course, the source of that problem is opinions like yours - that college has some kind of intrinsic value. It somehow makes you better, hence, it is not a "trade school" which teaches you a trade. If this is the case or not is fairly irrelevant; it is not how it is seen by those in it, so it is not how it is treated by them.

          Then, of course, there are those who use college as a buffer of party time between highschool and work. I'd dare say they make up a bigger portion of college population than either learners or goal seekers...
    • What makes you think that the people you see on Slashdot "bitching that half the youngsters getting computer science degrees today are incompetent code monkeys" are the same ones who dislike the declining interest or falling numbers in comp-sci education? Or do they all think the same way?

    • I prefer to be elitest and think that only a small percentage of the population can actually think abstractly enough to have an aptitude for math and computer science.

      While I love wrapping my head around a hard problem (and gain immense satisfaction in solving it) when I describe what I do (sit in a desk most of the day and think about problems) to other people they picture it to be about as fun as water torture.

    • by kenh (9056)

      The new "bubble degree" is environmental science - it sounds nice, but typically rarely leads to a career & the jobs that there are tend to exist only because of gov't subsidies... Remove the subsidy and the job disappears.

    • A Computer Science degree should imply that the holder is capable of:
      A fair degree of applied math
      Being able to build a formal proof (prove sqrt 2 is irrational)(of which a real math major will laugh at)
      Able to write a simple compiler or a simple operating system.
      Able to track down a reproducible bug in a medium complexity program

      Plenty of people get in it for the wrong reasons, and will cheat their way through the rough stuff.. horrible when I see someone who "passed" compilers not understand what L
    • Both is true. Interest in degree is falling, bars for entering and passing are lowered because schools need to fill their classes and the industry asks for graduates, resulting in code monkeys.

  • I think programming and IT in general should be taught but it shouldnt be scattershot on everyone. They should find out if the kids are interested in it and competent first or else it will simply be wasted time.

    I am a web developer, do the LAMP thing as well as some ASP, VBscript, Javascript..Flash..yada.. I do pretty well and enjoy it.. I tried to get my kids into it and they had zero interest so it was a no go for them.

    I really think you can go a lot further by getting the ones who are motivated and i
  • Having Angelina Jolie and Cameron Diaz fembots teaching Computer Science to the boyz, and Chris Evans and Jason Momoa mandroids for the gurl geeks. You just have to hit teenagers squarely in the hormones!

  • shop class (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anvil the Ninja (38143) on Monday November 28, 2011 @11:49PM (#38198560)

    High school intro to programming should fill the same niche as shop class -- to get students interested in creating stuff.

    • Re:shop class (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kenh (9056) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:35AM (#38198836) Homepage Journal

      And be just as optional. Requiring a student to study something like shop or programming they aren't interested in and will likely never do anything with outside of class will ruin it for everyone else as the teachers will need to "dumb-down" the class to drag these folks along, causing the more interested students to become frustrated with the pace of the class.

    • by xs650 (741277)
      When I was in high school, shop classes were there to keep the delinquents occupied so they didn't tear down the school. Yes, there were a few serious students in shop class, but not the majority.
  • Reading and writing is not enough for the regular mortal to be defined as literate nowadays. Programming is becoming ubiquitous in all modern activities and jobs.
    As Douglas Rushkoff puts it, "Program or be programmed".
    • by kenh (9056)

      The vast majority of US college graduates fail to comprehend legal obligations (student loans), compound interest (credit cards), and their current political system (OWS)... I suspect there is a similar "life skill gap" in the U.K. - is it reasonable to propel programming ahead of these other skills?

      This line of logic reminds me of the OLPC crowd that is throwing money/support behind the idea of dumping laptops in the laps of under-privlidged children around the world to solve some vaugely-defined problem i

    • A wise man.

      "Programming" changed its meaning as did literacy. Today, everyone (ok, nearly everyone) is literate on a medieval definition of "literate". For two reasons. First, general education picked up, but it has also become easier. You can "look" at a word and even if you cannot read, as in "connect letters and make out their meaning", but can only deduct from the look of a word what it means, you will be able to "read" it. Due to a standardized spelling system and standardized writing, it has become ea

  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Monday November 28, 2011 @11:51PM (#38198586)

    ...Back in the 1980's when the programming I did caused a small robot [mit.edu] to draw complex shapes on the floor. I crunched through an insane number of projects in four years, from mathematical problems to friezes for musical productions and outlines for stage sets.

    I still remember how to program the Turtle, though the real-world applications of such a skill, I've since found, number precisely zero. It was and is still fun, though.

    • I know it's bad form to reply to yourself, but:

      One or two side skills I picked up while working with Turtle was in forward planning and troubleshooting. Not to mention a habit I'm still trying to kick, which annoys me greatly: the pursuit of perfection.

  • Give lots of subsidies to developers and publishers establishing studios in your country and support high-level art and design trade schools. The former attracts them, the latter keeps them around.

    It's certainly more simple than reconstructing the curriculum from elementary school up and it definitively paid off in a lot of cases; just look at Montreal. However, I'd say Britain is far from bad. Studios like Creative Assembly, Media Molecule, Studio Liverpool or Codemasters are all excellent.

    • I think Media Molecule in particular is pushing this along because they can't find anyone under the age of 25 worth hiring anymore.

      • by Eric Green (627)

        Perhaps Media Molecule should think about hiring some of the 50%+ of UK Computer Science graduates who cannot find a job in the field? When I see statistics that say that 70% of Computer Science graduates are not working in the field five years later, I call balderdash on the notion of a shortage of software engineers in the UK. If Media Molecule truly believes that 50%+ of UK Computer Science graduates are unqualified to write software, it sounds to me as if their beef is with the universities that credent

        • If it's anything like in other countries, it's not a shortage of people who graduated from a CS class, it's a shortage of people who can write sensible code.

          The two groups have overlapping areas, but they're not congruent. CS doesn't equate programming. I know a fair lot of people with CS degrees that I wouldn't trust enough coding skills to have them write an Excel macro for me.

          CS is NOT programming. My university pretty much expects you to know how to program if you come in for their CS classes.

  • If you want to make it cool, ban learning about it.
  • by j. andrew rogers (774820) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:01AM (#38198650)

    Say what? Is this what average people think programmers and software engineers do? Do they think the kids won't catch on that the reality does not look anything like that?

    I have nothing against programming as a part of standard education. It is likely beneficial on multiple levels, not just because it teaches a useful skill but because it forces you to reason about and analyze systems in a somewhat rigorous way.

    My issue is that they are apparently faking the real rewards at a very superficial level which generates little value in practice. You won't train a generation of great computer scientists by doing a bait and switch, and history suggests that really great computer scientists are rarely motivated by their ability to do parlor tricks for the adoring masses. Like with many other technical disciplines, the deep elegance that makes it rewarding requires long and serious study that most of society will never really appreciate except in a very indirect way.

    • I don't know the whole industry stats, but there are a large number of people employed in movie special effects, games, and related things like virtual reality for architecture, etc. Much larger than pro sports, (highly paid) acting/modeling, and the typical wish list.

      • I would suspect that there are far more people employed in writing mundane crap like "accounts receivable form generator that Jim made before quitting" than any of the effects areas you mention.

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:05AM (#38198670)

    Forcing students to take courses that 'teach' them things that they are unlikely to ever use because there is a chance that they will use them and/or it might have a tiny impact on their intelligence.

    If it's optional, I don't have a problem with it. But I doubt most people are going to actually use this knowledge.

  • Why not... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kenh (9056) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @12:22AM (#38198764) Homepage Journal

    Why not just require every student study engineering, so that England can become an engineering leader? It's an equally simplistic proposal to solve a problem as the "require everyone to study something only a few will ever work with to solve a vaugely-defined non-existant problem"...

  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @01:27AM (#38199152) Journal

    What programming languages do many generic algorithms textbooks use? Pseudocode! Why? Because real code is 1) still full of useless boilerplate that has to be there for the benefit of the compiler/interpreter, not the software engineer, 2) overcomplicates the syntax, again for the benefit of the compiler, and most of all, 3) still stinks up code reuse!

    Back in the day, Pascal was the teaching language of choice, and BASIC was the default option for amateurs. Pascal started as an improvement on Algol, which is perhaps the original structured programming language. Pascal has quite a number of ugly design decisions. First, it's too verbose and English centric, using "begin" and "end" for blocks. C's curly braces are much, much better. Pascal's data types are very limited. In at least the Turbo Pascal compilers, Pascal's string type was limited to 255 characters because they used a single byte to store the length. Strong typing may be good for keeping novices out of trouble, but it's simply a puritanical limitation for experienced programmers.

    As for C, what I mean by boilerplate is stuff like "int main(int argc, char **argv)". And that also demonstrates what I mean about overcomplicated syntax. We know main takes 2 arguments. Why do we have to put parentheses around them? We don't put parentheses around an operator just for that. It's ugly to have to do something like "assign(&c,add(a,b))" instead of "c=a+b". Then there's the redundant requirement for a semicolon. In school, we pound on students to use proper indentation, and to put statements on separate lines. But most languages still require that extra bit of punctuation. May sound like trivial issues, but these little things matter. There's also the pointer nastiness, with those ugly '*' and '&' symbols everywhere. At least C++ cleaned that up a little bit, with the use of '&' for variables named in function prototypes, and Java went a bit further yet. But it all adds up to making programming more tedious than necessary.

    The LISP proponents might be feeling a bit smug and superior by now. But you know what? Lots of Idiotic Single Parentheses also blows it on these issues. To do that simple bit of math, have to say "(= c (+ a b))" Make the programmer do it in prefix order. The advantage is that unlike infix, no parentheses are required to unambiguously state a mathematical formula, but then the language requires the miserable parentheses anyway! Ok, so you can have variable numbers of parameters, and say stuff like "(+ a b c d)", but that little compensation is not worth being required to use parentheses everywhere.

    The humble command line has its own issues. It has become customary to flag all the parameters with letters of the alphabet, instead of requiring all the parameters be passed, and passed in a specific order. I always struggle to remember inconsistencies like the stream parameter being the first parameter in fprintf, but the last parameter in fputs. They messed themselves up with that one. I suspect they wanted to put the stream parameter at the end to be consistent with fputs, but could not because fprintf is one of the few library functions that takes a variable number of parameters, and the ad hoc way they enabled that meant the stream had to go at the front. This is not an issue with the command line. Scripting has had a revival of sorts, but is still looked upon with contempt. Perhaps Perl is the current scripting language of choice. It has many improvements over bash. I really like the built in hash data type, and everyone likes the regular expression syntax. But it sure borrowed a whopper from shell scripting, requiring these funny glyphs ($, @, and % mostly) for every single use of a variable name.

    As for code reuse, look at the mess we have with libraries. OOP couldn't solve this problem, wasn't good enough. I think where OOP really missed was the entire idea of imposing a hierarchy on classes. Ideas such as CORBA didn't cut it either. C is perhaps the clo

    • Because real code is 1) still full of useless boilerplate that has to be there for the benefit of the compiler/interpreter, not the software engineer, 2) overcomplicates the syntax, again for the benefit of the compiler, and most of all, 3) still stinks up code reuse!

      Perhaps in the languages you use. Ruby doesn't actually have most of the problems you have highlighted -

      Parenthesis are optional
      Semicolons are optional
      Begin/End is optional
      No pointers
      Glyph prefixes are not required for variables (except @ used for class variables)
      No header files
      No namespaces (a plus in my book as it adds complication)
      Embed c etc if you must, though this will never be painless in any language as it deals with legacy issues from other languages.

      I'm sure languages will improve as people realis

  • My guess is that corporation fights, messy and confusing APIs, software patents and changing standards should drive most intelligent and creative people away from programming. Calling it "technology" doesn't help either.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @02:39AM (#38199532)

    First and foremost, programming isn't for everyone. I had to learn this the hard way, by many frustrating experiences of trying to teach people what is natural for me. Some, actually most, people just don't make good programmers. Yes, you can teach them how to do it, but they'll never be able to come up with sensible code themselves. They will know the functions and commands, but they will never grasp the mindset necessary. They will eventually maybe get the how, but never the why. And that simply isn't enough. That way you get rote programmers who will spend their time hunting for code someone else wrote and do some crappy copy/paste programming job. The only thing you accomplish is that this kind of "programmer" will muscle into the work force, push salaries down to the point where even people who could do some great programming stop aiming for the trade and would rather spend their paid hours in some idiotic number pushing job, simply because it's better paid. Like, say, me turning to IT security management rather than IT security development. I'm a far worse security manager than I was in secdev. But it's better paid. WAY better paid.

    Then, coding IS already cool. For those interested in coding. I spend my spare time coding now, think I'd do it if I didn't think it's cool and it's fun? And you'll never make it cool for people who don't get an orgasmic rush from nifty code that works, from an optimization that shaves off 20% of runtime, they don't care. They don't bother. They will create code that "does somehow" what it's supposed to do to get over it. For them, it's not a passion but a burden. You get the kind of output that you get from anyone who has to do work he doesn't really enjoy, the one with the least effort necessary.

    And finally, to rephrase the first paragraph and explain why people would rather go for BA majors than for engineering: Salaries. The crappiest BA number pusher gets more money than the best IT engineer. People follow the money, it's that simple. And as long as it's better paid to administrate than to actually do something productive, this is where people will go.

  • by drolli (522659)

    The only language to start with is LISP.

    Let the Flamewar begin...

  • ...barring truly equitable currency exchange rates globally, it is impossible for me to say whether an investment made in technology education won't be wasted when it results in wholesale layoffs of a generation or two due to those technology workers being undercut on costs.

    America has been there, done that. All Hail Carly Fiorina!
  • by mdarksbane (587589) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @09:17AM (#38201040)

    Programming is already cool. It's programmers that aren't, and most people don't want to become a programmer in order to get to the cool programming part.

    We're like a colony of Leper Wizards. Everyone's in awe of the fact that we can create fire, but no one really wants to hang out with us long enough to learn how to do it themselves.

Never put off till run-time what you can do at compile-time. -- D. Gries

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