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Education Programming

Why We Should Teach Our Kids To Code 427

Posted by Soulskill
from the give-them-a-command-line-and-let-nature-take-its-course dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An article by Andy Young in The Kernel makes the case that lessons in programming should be compulsory learning for modern school kids. He says, 'Computers help us automate and repeat the many complicated steps that make up the search for the answer to some of our hardest problems: whether that's a biologist attempting to model a genome or an office administrator tasked with searching an endless archive of data. The use of tools is a big part of what make us human, and the computer is humanity's most powerful tool. ... The computer makes us more efficient, and enables and empowers us to achieve far more than we ever could otherwise. Yet the majority of us are entirely dependent on a select few, to enable us to achieve what we want. Programming is the act of giving computers instructions to perform. This is true whether the output is your word processor, central heating or aircraft control system. If you can't code, you are forced to rely on those that can to ensure that you can benefit from the greatest tool at your disposal.'"
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Why We Should Teach Our Kids To Code

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @06:21AM (#38802863)

    Let's start with basic computer literacy and not pretend that computer programming courses for a general audience wouldn't be watered down and completely useless - a torture for those with some aptitude for programming and a waste of time for the rest.

    • by u38cg (607297) <calum@callingthetune.co.uk> on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @06:42AM (#38802999) Homepage
      Is computer literacy for 14 year olds still an issue? Really?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by errandum (2014454)

        For some, yes. Same way playing basketball isn't commonplace (even though PE classes are mandatory pretty much everywhere) or simply writing correct English.

        Genetic predisposition will always play a key factor in all of this.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Darfeld (1147131)

          Genetic predisposition are overrated. The social context is far more important in this case. A child raised in a family with no computer will take longer to adapt. No computer at home means their will be no one to explain how to work with them, part from school lessons. I can clearly see how it could turn frustrating.

          There is also the interests of the child. A child into technology will take more attention and learn faster.

          Anyway, computer literacy is important, but you don't have to know much really. What

          • by errandum (2014454) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @07:59AM (#38803367)

            According to my organizational behaviour book ( http://www.amazon.com/Organizational-Behavior-13th-Stephen-Robbins/dp/0136007171 [amazon.com] ) only 30% is dictated by your surroundings.

            Studies conducted on twin brothers separated at birth tend to conclude that most twins will end up with similar skills, jobs and interests. It's not overrated, it's fact... The book is actually quite interesting, I advice you to read it if you can get your hands on it.

          • by Rakishi (759894) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @09:16AM (#38803821)

            There is also the interests of the child. A child into technology will take more attention and learn faster.

            You've never taken a water downed school class in anything, have you? Trust me, nothing else saps interest and attention faster.

            I'm very good at math, a prodigy you might say. In elementary school math was only interesting because I got into a contest with a friend on who could finish all the year's homework the fastest. I think it took us two weeks and he was merely good at math. In middle school the class was so mindnumingly boring that I learned calculus just so they could never subject me to another such class. I asked the school, btw, to place me in a more advance class and they basically told me to fuck off.

            Granted, they'll probably just give all the intelligent kids massive amounts of ADD drugs so they don't "act out" is those boring classes. Problem solved as far as the school and parents care.

            • you are insane, i like math, but math homework is the most mind numbingly boring and tedious thing in existence. it is just monotonous repeating the same style of problem over and over...isn't this why they invented computers?

              you needed a better school then. i was sent to the high school for math while attending the middle school, and then they paid the tuition for me to go to a nearby university while in high school. and there were about 4 other high school students in my university courses, from other

              • by Rakishi (759894) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @12:24PM (#38806467)

                you are insane, i like math, but math homework is the most mind numbingly boring and tedious thing in existence. it is just monotonous repeating the same style of problem over and over...isn't this why they invented computers?

                Thus why we made it into a game/contest. You think mmorpgs are any less mindnumbingly boring and tedious than math homework?

                you needed a better school then.

                I went to a very good middle school, magnet and all that fancy stuff. All that meant was that the administrators had different but even more strict bins they put students into. Can't be too gifted or it complicates their little student filing system and they just can't have that. I'm pretty certain at this point that the better the public school the more bureaucratic the school administrators are.

                Of course, now that No Child Left Behind and standardized testing is king they might want to keep smart kids back just so they raise the test scores.

                i was sent to the high school for math while attending the middle school, and then they paid the tuition for me to go to a nearby university while in high school. and there were about 4 other high school students in my university courses, from other nearby towns. i didn't go to any fancy private school either, i was just in our states public school system.

                So did I although the school wasn't at all happy to do so. Apparently, where I was, a school has to provide education at your level or find/allow means to do so. Of course, proving that you are above what they can provide is where the hiccup is. Apparently, passing the Calculus AP exam in 6th grade makes a case that is really hard for anyone to argue against. That and the school really didn't want the press coverage they'd get if they didn't stop shoving their shitty math classes down my throat.

              • by Darinbob (1142669)

                The mind numbing tediousness actually works. You can learn principles but it won't really work without the rote practice. This is a lot like playing a musical instrument. I picked up and learned a lot of different instruments, but not very well because I never practiced. But I thought things like bassoon were cool with their millions of keys. But I could never be a musician because I stop working at it very soon after picking up the basics; the cool stuff is over and no patience is left for the hard wo

            • by Rasperin (1034758)

              I know the feeling, that's why I graduated High School with a 1.666r GPA and a 1540 on my SAT.

              Honestly though, the collegiate system isn't much better, it's a bit more challenging and they ask for a lot more independent studying, but for some it's still too fast and some way too slow. I was in the latter, and is a big reason I dropped out (something I regret 8 years later). I've been programming since, but I just couldn't handle it on my own, how bored I was.

              Universities should offer jump ahead forms, where

        • by beh (4759) * on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @08:40AM (#38803581)

          As a software developer, I can see where the call for that comes from - but it's just about as misplaced as it could be. Software developers aren't the 'standard' the rest of the world should orient themselves by.

          Developing software is a great skill to have if you're a software engineer -- not sure whether it's a waste of time if you plan to become, say, a doctor, a plumber, etc...

          There are very few skills that _everybody_ needs to have for their normal day to day lives - developing software isn't one of them. Giving kids an idea of what is part of it may be a good idea, i.e. a basic understanding of how computers work. Coding skills on the other hand - not so sure; particularly - who knows what language and what paradigm will be 'state of the art' by the time the kid finally gets to use his/her development skills on. Picture it from this side - when I went to school, programming courses looked at BASIC and Pascal. Nice languages - for teaching - but I'm not sure whether it will really prepare you for coding C/C++, Java, Perl, Python, Ruby, ...

          Do you really think that it makes sense giving someone much of a development course in something that may be outdated a few years later? I didn't really like history lessons, biology lessons, ... But I'm sure most of the history being taught is still the same; most of the principles of biology are still intact, ... On the other hand - one of the things we learned about in school was some of the hardware: anyone still remember what a ULA is? Or the practical knowledge of how to hook up a tape deck to a computer? ... punch cards?

          Development classes and paradigms are too specific a skill for a mandatory course to be forced on everyone.

          • by robthebloke (1308483) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @08:57AM (#38803715)

            not sure whether it's a waste of time if you plan to become, say, a doctor, a plumber, etc...

            A librarian with programming knowledge would be snapped up immediately (since most libraries are being forced to digitise their collections).
            Someone who can speak arabic would be much better writing an english -> arabic translator than the vast majority of programmers.
            If you're writing animation software, an animator who can program is much more valuable than a programmer who knows nothing about animation.

            That's really the problem with recruitment though isn't it? There are plenty of programmers around, however there are very few people with (insert relevant skill here) who can actually program! Since CS tends to be the place where most people learn programming, how is that going to help us recruit a biologist with programming experience? Exposing children to programming at school gives them a chance to specialise in a subject other than CS, and still have a chance at employment as a programmer in the future....

            • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NoSPam.barbara-hudson.com> on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @10:12AM (#38804377) Journal
              You missed the point - programmers are a commodity.

              Exposing children to programming at school gives them a chance to specialise in a subject other than CS, and still have a chance at employment as a programmer in the future....

              Looking back, I'm glad my kids didn't bother. The working conditions are mostly crap, the job satisfaction is among the lowest of any industry, sexual harassment is the #1 factor for women dropping out (68%), and you're going to be hit by the 3 Os - Outsourced, Off-shored or Obsolete - well before you're ready to retire.

              Staying current doesn't help - perception is what counts, which is why you see people worried that they may never find another job at 35 because they're seen as "too old."

              • by gtbritishskull (1435843) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @11:00AM (#38805087)
                I am an engineer who programs. I do automation. Most of my time is spent programming, but I would not have this job if I were not an engineer. The working conditions are great. Job satisfaction is pretty good. Not a girl, so don't know about sexual harassment, but have not seen any in my office (but there are not any female engineers). We outsource the gruntwork, but then the program has to be fixed, tested, and installed. If my boss could outsource my job he would (not because he is a dick or anything but because he is a businessman and is not going to give me charity) but he can't. Your life sucks because you don't have a useful skill to leverage with your programming, so you are a commodity. The point is, as you seem to agree, that people should not become just programmers. Programming should be a skill, not a job. Everyone should learn to program, just like everyone needs to learn to write. I write emails all day long (or at least it seems like it), but my career is not writing. My value add is engineering, which I leverage with my programming and writing skills. There are very few professions that I can think of where your worth does not increase dramatically from knowing how to program.
              • I am old, all it means I get payed more then my fellow developers.

                As for 35... I remember 35... dimly. Saying that I am past 35 is like saying the Voyager 1 is a bit far. Hell, I was once amazed at the high tech in Voyager... I think so, that far back the memory ... what was I talking about?

                Oh, you might be right when you think programmers are the kiddies who work in Access but real developers? People who know how to turn an idea into a working product from start to finish? They are FUCKING hard to find. Gr

              • by Hatta (162192)

                You missed the point. Not everyone with programming knowledge is a programmer, any more than anyone with English knowledge is a writer. We're not talking about making everyone a software engineer. We're talking about giving people the tools to automate the day to day problems everyone encounters in their lives.

              • by ceoyoyo (59147)

                "You missed the point - programmers are a commodity."

                You missed the point. Programmers are a commodity. People with other skills who can also program (or programmers who know something about things other than programming) are rare and valuable.

          • Old hardware does not effect logic or the skills needed to program, those skills carry over language to language, it is not the syntax that is important just the reasoning ability, it's why a proficient programmer can learn a new language in a few months. The reason every student shouldn't take a programming course is because that course would not give students essential skills that a majority of them will use. Most of these skills are touched upon in math classes and the redundancy of a programming class
          • by khr (708262) <kevinrubin@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @09:44AM (#38804047) Homepage

            As a software developer, I can see where the call for that comes from - but it's just about as misplaced as it could be. Software developers aren't the 'standard' the rest of the world should orient themselves by.

            In junior high, even though I was already planning a career in computers, I still had to take shop class, something I didn't plan to really use. Still, I learned a bit about using some of the basic tools that might be around the house to get some tasks done with them. While my woodwork would probably never measure up to professional standards, I can probably do a few things if I need to for myself.

            The same could be said for computers. Even those who don't plan to become professional software developers could still use the skills learned for better use of a this other tool that's likely to be around the house...

            • by CastrTroy (595695)
              Which is why I think programming probably isn't the right thing to be teaching to everybody. Something like systems administration would be a much better course. Understanding the basics like how a computer goes together, what the different parts are for (many people don't even know the difference between memory (RAM) and storage (hard disk). You can't be proficient in programming until you actually understand how to operate a computer, and many people fail on that to no end. Get people up to the point
          • by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot&nexusuk,org> on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @10:03AM (#38804249) Homepage

            As a software developer, I can see where the call for that comes from - but it's just about as misplaced as it could be. Software developers aren't the 'standard' the rest of the world should orient themselves by.

            Developing software is a great skill to have if you're a software engineer -- not sure whether it's a waste of time if you plan to become, say, a doctor, a plumber, etc...

            There are very few skills that _everybody_ needs to have for their normal day to day lives - developing software isn't one of them.

            Whilst I agree with you that software development isn't a mandatory skill for all careers, I do think that it would be a good idea to give people a mandatory introduction to it at school and then allow them to opt to do it in the later stages of school. Remember that there are mandatory classes in many "non-essential" subjects already - why is it considered a good idea to teach kids art, music, geography, history, engineering (aka "technology") but not software development?

            When I was doing my GCSEs (a little under 20 years ago), I ended up doing art and geography as my optional subjects. That wasn't because I thought they were interesting or useful (I firmly believed, and still believe that they were the most boring wastes of time I've ever encountered and have done nothing to usefully improve my education). Computer science wasn't available either as a mandatory or as an optional subject. As far as I know, it still isn't, 20 years later (yes, there are now useless "computing" classes that teach you how to use Word - something that maybe you could dedicate a lesson or 2 to, but I honestly don't see how you can fill an entire subject with that).

            In fact, I would go so far to say that a rudamentary understanding of how software works (not just how to use it), would be far more useful to most people than the likes of art, geography, etc. Even if you're not going to have a career in computing, you're still almost certainly going to use computers and have to interact with techies, so having at least some understanding of how they work is helpful. I don't subscribe to the idea that understanding beyond the level that you are working at isn't useful - if you're writing software in assembly language then it helps to have an basic understanding of the physical chip design; if you're writing software in C it helps to have a basic understanding of the instructions that code will be compiled to, as well as how the operating system is going to handle your system calls; by extension, if you're using computers (and people from all areas of life do this, including doctors, company directors, etc.) then it helps to have a basic understanding of how the software actually works.

            particularly - who knows what language and what paradigm will be 'state of the art' by the time the kid finally gets to use his/her development skills on.

            I fundamentally believe that we shouldn't be teaching languages just because they are currently in use or state of the art. When I was doing my A levels and later when I was doing my degree, basic procedural programming was taught using Pascal, because it happens to be a reasonable teaching language. It is, however, a language that isn't really used in industry, but that doesn't matter because once you've understood the basics of programming, picking up a new language is easy. These days, the university I studied at has switched to using Java to teach basic programming skills, because industry alledgedly wants Java programmers. Java is a pretty horrendous language to use as a teaching language for people who have never programmed before, so it fails at that point. Even if industry does want Java programmers now, they probably won't in 10 years, so using that as the foundation for a degree seems daft.

            As a company director myself, I don't want programmers who know a single specific language - we use a variety of languages (Java is not one of them), and which languages are used periodically

      • by dokc (1562391) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @07:11AM (#38803131) Journal

        Is computer literacy for 14 year olds still an issue? Really?

        Of course it is! Computer literacy is much more then just clicking around with a mouse. Especially 14 year olds need to be educated about not only the technical side of computers, but also about sociological side (just turn around and check how many of them put everything about themselves on Facebook).

        • by Canazza (1428553)

          and those that give out their FB Passwords are a 'trust gesture' in relationships.

        • by g0bshiTe (596213) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @09:38AM (#38803989)
          Mine doesn't use facebook, she is 14. One of the pretenses of her having her own computer is we have access and randomly check, we have never done so as there is no need. She uses her computer to watch videos, and to draw in photoshop. She is currently working with some of her friends on their first animated short story.
          • by dokc (1562391)

            Mine doesn't use facebook, she is 14. One of the pretenses of her having her own computer is we have access and randomly check, we have never done so as there is no need. She uses her computer to watch videos, and to draw in photoshop. She is currently working with some of her friends on their first animated short story.

            For me that means that she is computer literate. (and btw congratulations to you as a parent)

      • by Toam (1134401) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @09:07AM (#38803767)

        Is computer literacy for 14 year olds still an issue? Really?

        I teach at a university. I've noticed this attitude from a lot of senior academics.

        The assumption is that because almost everyone one of them owns an iphone and a laptop, that they are computer experts. However whenever we expect them to do anything work related on a computer (I am talking the most basic of Excel function) they collapse in a heap.

        There is a very serious difference between being able to update your facebook status and being able to do something useful.

      • Oh wait, like so many you don't know what it truly means to be literate. To be literate is NOT to know what a word means but to be capable of learning the meaning of a new word.

        To explain: A research animal hits a level with a image and gets a nut. The animal likes nuts so will associate the image with a nut. If another leaver has another image and delivers an electric shock, which the animal does not like, he will associate that image with the shock.

        But the animal has no understanding of the image. The ima

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jawtheshark (198669) *
      What is basic computer literacy? That has change a lot over time. Back in my day, you needed to know what a computer did to actually use the thing. Those times are definitely over. Those so called "Digital Natives" aren't. They are actually worse than those who need to "learn" the thing, because at least those people understand this is something you learn.

      I have taught "Computer Literacy" at high school. 13-14 year old. It was clear that the abstract concepts were too much for many of them. According

      • by dokc (1562391)

        According to pedagogy, that's not entirely unexpected because at that age abstract thinking is way in early stages. I know it's elitist to say (and as a teacher, you're not supposed to even think about that possibility), but coding and the abstract thinking needed for it is a property of the kid, not something you can really teach.

        Coding and abstract thinking is something you should train, not teach (or teach how to code and think). The main problem of all educational systems today is that we want to put as much "facts" in children's head, instead of show them how to figure out some things themselves. That is a reason why children find math boring.

        School should teach writing, reading, math, foreign languages, physics, chemistry, biology, history and geography and most important: problem solving skills. Problem solving skills is the only thing that will advance them.

        Absolutely true! But before that, educate teachers not just to read-out what is written in school books (children at that age already know how to read), but to explain, lead and animate chi

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jawtheshark (198669) *

          Coding and abstract thinking is something you should train,

          Yes, but you can only train a "talent"... If the talent is completely non-existing in the kid, then no amount of training will do any good. That's why, until today, I suck completely at music. My teachers, back then, pulled their hair out with me as a pupil. This stuff goed completely above my head and no amount of training could get me to play anything.

          Absolutely true! But before that, educate teachers not just to read-out what is written in

          • by black6host (469985) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @09:31AM (#38803939)

            I'm not 100% certain, but the "explorer" part ceases to exist around puberty.... My experience, I might be 100% off.

            Oh, I don't know. The "exploration" starts to get mighty intense around the age of puberty. Just not about common school subjects. Probably why teaching people of that age is so difficult. You're competing with forces that are extremely powerful, and deeply ingrained. Instinctual even. :) For me, learning about the (damn, can't even remember what they were teaching me at the time, insert subject here) didn't hold a candle to exploring the breasts of the girl that sat next to me.

  • by McGuirk (1189283) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @06:22AM (#38802867) Homepage
    I don't necessarily think that not knowing how to code on a practical level is really necessary for average Joe, but Mr. Young is definitely on the ball about the general idea. I took Computer Science in High School it was my major for my first year in college. It definitely changed the way that I think about complicated things and go about attempting to solve a problem.

    Then again, perhaps it is just certain types of thinkers that are attracted to coding and actually doing it just helps hone this type of reasoning.
    • Furthermore, the way to use things will be increasingly based on the "programming logic". Understanding the basics of programmation helps to operate efficiently a washing machine, a movie player, a microwave, or, more and more, a car, for instance. iTunes "smart playlists" is another exemple.
      Around me, people who initially (2008) loved the iPhone were primarily people having a scientific/IT background.
    • by SerpentMage (13390) <[ChristianHGross] [at] [yahoo.ca]> on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @07:04AM (#38803109)

      Instead of teaching programming, like you say maybe teach about problem solving? Oh wait that is called being logical! Oh wait maybe that can be called logic and is, I don't know, part of the MATH curriculum! I don't think learning how to program, for everybody, is a good idea. Here are my issues with it:

      1) What language? Unless you decide to keep up in programming languages whatever you learn is going to be completely and uterly useless.

      2) What paradigm? Once you have decided on a programming language are you going to teach via an IDE? Text editor? How about file system communications? Database? Complications, complications, complications...

      I help my niece with her math and my biggest beef today is that you have history, or philosphy folks teaching math. You can teach math and science in two ways. The first and this is what I fear is happening all too much is to teach via remembering the formulas and solutions. This achieves nothing and leads the problems in computer science and science we have today. The second approach and this is more difficult since it requires an innat understanding of math and science is to teach it in the abstract. I teach math to my niece in the abstract and she GETS it (when she pays attention). I try to get her to understand why the formula she just learned is actually created and what purpose it serves. I get her problem solving skills involved! Oh wait is that not what you try to do with programming?

      • Unless you decide to keep up in programming languages whatever you learn is going to be completely and uterly useless.

        Yeah, like C. It's only been around for about 40 years and it's already totally obsolete. /s

      • Unless you decide to keep up in programming languages whatever you learn is going to be completely and uterly useless

        That's one of the strangest things I've ever heard here. "Completely and utterly". 100%. Really? They're going to have to learn what an if statement or a loop is all over again? They're not going to understand assignments or function calls? Past experience of data typing and object oriented features aren't going to be useful?

        There is a whole lot that carries over from one language to the next - unless obviously you look into functional programming or something like that, in which case a different approach i

      • by schroedingers_hat (2449186) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @07:49AM (#38803319)

        Instead of teaching programming, like you say maybe teach about problem solving? Oh wait that is called being logical! Oh wait maybe that can be called logic and is, I don't know, part of the MATH curriculum! I don't think learning how to program, for everybody, is a good idea.

        Far too little problem solving and critical thinking is taught in the maths classroom these days.

        1) What language? Unless you decide to keep up in programming languages whatever you learn is going to be completely and uterly useless.

        Irrelevant. The skills are almost entirely transferrable. Unless you got to an extremely esoteric language like APL or brainfuck, anyone with a good understanding of one language will be able to learn a language with a similar purpose very quickly.

        Going from scheme to assembly may be a bit of a stretch, but learning any language that vaguely follows the style and syntax of C (I am including everything from the more high level parts of some assemblies to javascript here) will give a large headstart towards learning any other.

        There is a reason pedagogical languages exist, after all. For a beginner, one of these, or any high level language is probably appropriate as a tool to teach logical thinking.

        2) What paradigm? Once you have decided on a programming language are you going to teach via an IDE? Text editor? How about file system communications? Database? Complications, complications, complications...

        Again, these are details that don't matter. It's like saying 'what do we teach them maths with? A pencil? Or pens? What model of caclulator?'

        As long as you don't pick something entirely esoteric, or bore them with too much low level stuff too soon, it's fine.

        One could even make an argument _for_ an otherwise useless and obscure language. This would help kerb plagiarism, or at least force the plagiarist to understand both languages well enough to port some code (a useful end in itself).

        I help my niece with her math and my biggest beef today is that you have history, or philosphy folks teaching math. You can teach math and science in two ways. The first and this is what I fear is happening all too much is to teach via remembering the formulas and solutions. This achieves nothing and leads the problems in computer science and science we have today.

        Here, I agree. And perhaps one way of getting more teachers that are competent in logic and mathematical thinking is to try and interest students in such matters? The path to a useful knowledge of mathematics is long and arduous. Many of the obstacles also seem arbitrary, and it is only when one looks down after learning a lot, that the point of it all can be truly understood.

        Even then, the practical use of it is limited to a few scientific disciplines where the tools are not already available in a packaged and easy to use form.

        Mathematical knowledge for its own sake is a wonderful thing, but it is difficult to convince other people of its worth.

        The second approach and this is more difficult since it requires an innat understanding of math and science is to teach it in the abstract. I teach math to my niece in the abstract and she GETS it (when she pays attention). I try to get her to understand why the formula she just learned is actually created and what purpose it serves. I get her problem solving skills involved! Oh wait is that not what you try to do with programming?

        I would not call understanding the reasoning rather than accepting a formula as gospel abstract. Abstract is where you investigate something without grounding in reality or practicality. Either way, these are skills that are woefully under-taught in today's schools. Mathematics is 'taught' in such a way that getting the answer is considered more important than learning to think.

        Perhaps programming is a good way to encourage these skills where other methods have fai

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @08:41AM (#38803589) Journal

        What language? Unless you decide to keep up in programming languages whatever you learn is going to be completely and uterly useless.

        The fact that you even ask this question shows that you have completely missed the point. Programming teaches two very important things:

        • Breaking down a set of instructions into a form so simple that something with no intelligence can follow them.
        • Understanding the limitations and capabilities of computers (which, in case you haven't noticed, are now embedded everywhere).

        The language is entirely irrelevant here. I was taught BBC BASIC and Logo at school (aged 7). I've not used either language for at least a decade, except for a couple of times when I fired up an emulator for nostalgia. Does this mean that what I learned was 'completely and uterly [sic] useless?' Of course not!

      • by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @09:04AM (#38803737)

        1) What language? Unless you decide to keep up in programming languages whatever you learn is going to be completely and uterly useless.

        Hi there!

        I'm a C programmer! Been doing it since the turn of the century, as I understand it I was over 20 years late to the party but it's *still* going strong now.

        Please, this "it all changes so fast" meme is tired and done.

        It doesn't.

    • A large part of the general population has absolutely nothing to gain by knowing how to program. Not everyone needs to solve problems that can be reduced to data.

      I AM a programmer, but any code done while not at work is for my own amusement. Knowing programming on a professional level doesn't help me solve ANY day-to-day problems, other than those presented to me by my employer.

      If I was employed with manual labor, as I assume is the case of the majority of planet Earth's total workforce, my programming
      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @08:53AM (#38803669) Journal

        If I was employed with manual labor, as I assume is the case of the majority of planet Earth's total workforce, my programming skills would be reduced to a hobby with no practical value.

        The world is a red herring there. Ask about the EU or USA, and you'll find that the vast majority are not employed doing manual labour. It's increasingly cheaper to replace manual workers with machines - they make fewer errors, don't need to eat or sleep, and can work around the clock. With machines like concrete extruders, even builders (which hung on for a while because of the large amount of individual decision making required) are likely to see a reduction in workforce. People always say that plumbing is a safe occupation because it can't be outsourced, but how much of a plumber's work could be done by a small robot that crawled through the pipes and had a glue gun for repairing damage and a drill for removing blockages?

        A large part of the general population has absolutely nothing to gain by knowing how to program

        Really? I'll give you a counter-example. My stepfather is the head greenskeeper on a golf course. Hardly a job that requires programming, right? Well, except for the fact that the irrigation system that they installed a few years back is completely computer controlled. It comes with a little domain-specific language that lets you write simple programs that set the conditions that will trigger each of the sprinklers. But, of course, he's just doing a low-skill job, he doesn't need to know any programming...

        For more general usage, try watching pretty much any office worker at his or her computer for ten minutes. You'll find it a painful experience: so many things that are trivial to automate are done by hand on a daily basis. A basic understanding of programming and half an hour with the VBA documentation in Word would save huge amounts of time every day. But, of course, they're just doing administrative work, they don't need to know any programming...

        • by asc99c (938635) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @09:28AM (#38803909) Homepage

          This is one of the best points on here. For 90% of the people who could benefit from programming knowledge, the question of whether to learn Java, or C, or Ruby is ridiculous. Many office workers have to deal with spreadsheets quite a bit, and VBA is the thing they often need.

          My wife used to be a team leader and she had to submit various reports on a weekly basis, through a process that took about 2 hours of copying and pasting between various spreadsheets. One day she was doing it from home and I saw she had got rid of about half the work using more complex formulas instead of copy/paste. I showed her how to add a button to run a VBA macro that did the rest, and reduced it to a 10 minute job, collating the data from a few sources, and then hitting a button.

          Within a few months of that she had rewritten most of the standard procedures for how most of the management reports were created (by herself) and automated most parts of it.

    • It definitely changed the way that I think about complicated things and go about attempting to solve a problem.

      I think you've hit the nail on the head here. The issue at hand is not that we need to teach the kids to program; if they learn to actually program, that's a welcome side effect. What they need to learn is to formulate and solve (computational) problems systematically in a way that makes result suitable for transcribing into code...or, e.g., suitable for transcribing into processes to be executed by people, if the processes are related to business, science, technology etc. Shaping your brain into an instrum

  • You won't find much disagreement from the average slashdotters on the importance of programming.
    The devil is in the details, how will compulsory programming courses be handled by school systems. If a student has to wrestle with proprietary environments with poor support because eventually the school gets tired of paying for cosmetic updates, he/she will only learn the "bad part" of programming. It sure teaches a lesson but there's the whole life to get that kind of schooling, for free :)

    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @06:32AM (#38802945)
      Or the other end: They all get lessons covering only Visual Studio and .NET, or making iOS apps in xcode, because Microsoft or Apple respectively offers a massive discount and almost-free support to schools to make sure the programmers of the future are their customers of the future too.
      • by sithlord2 (261932)

        So what? A for-loop in Java is basically the same as in .NET or Objective C.

        Programming is about a certain mind-set, logic & math. Only bad programmers complain about programming languages. A good programmer can program in any programming language he wants...

        Okay, except "brainf*ck" maybe...
        • by qxcv (2422318)

          Only bad programmers complain about programming languages. A good programmer can program in any programming language he wants...

          It's a good thing all schoolchildren are Good Programmers then. Hell, why are we even teaching them this! They can program in any language they want!

          A few lesson's experience in one language makes not a Good Programmer. Not having a portable, flexible language makes it extremely difficult for kids to hack on cool pet projects like web apps and games without investing a significant amount of time learning a new language for doing each task.

          • by mwvdlee (775178)

            Teach them basic HTML/CSS/JS skills.

            They're not the most elegant languages in the world (understatement), but they're relatively easy (just stick to procedural code) and a browser is pretty much always available. Most browsers are quite forgiving as well; if you forget an HTML close tag or omit a semicolon in JS, mostly you'll still get the output upto the point it goes bad.

            JS can be quite a mess, but if you stick to the basics JS will do fine for the purpose of teaching absolute beginners. You don't need t

      • I think you are taking "Programming" to literally.

        What I took from TFA was more a kin to scripting. Learning how to write a perl/python script to scan a bunch of documents for certain phrases, even learning regular expressions for use inside applications which support RegEx would be useful.

        You don't need full on paid for development environments to teach that.
        • How are such skills even *remotely* useful to peple such as lumberjacks, casino dealers, chefs, cashiers, clothing designers or nurses?
          Also, notice how little these occupations have in common, except the complete lack of anything that would be aided by programming skills. I'm sure I could add another 100 occupations to that list if I really wanted, and I'm quite confident that the numer of individuals employed in such an occupation greatly outnumbers programmers.
          • by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @10:19AM (#38804471) Journal

            How are such skills even *remotely* useful to peple such as lumberjacks, casino dealers, chefs, cashiers, clothing designers or nurses?

            Coincidently I was a "lumberjack" in the early 80's, programming was very useful to me as a way of getting out of a life of low paid manual labour.

            Come to think of it the crusty old manager of the sawmill would ask you maths questions before he would give you the "cream job" of picking house lots from the green-chain. However the only worker making any real money was the guy operating the large break down saw, it had more knobs and switches than a small aircraft and was a very specialised skill. Of course a gigantic band saw with a 4 meter high jaw that can manipulate and slice up a 40ton log to within 1/64th of an inch would be controlled by a computer these days, and I wouldn't be surprised if house lots are now picked and packed by one guy operating a few industrial robots.

            And yes, we did occasionally sing the lumberjack song.

      • by expatriot (903070)

        When I was in high school in the 60's, my father strongly suggested that I should take a typing course. In those days this was on a manual typewriter and the class was full of girls who I presume wanted to be secretaries.

        It was one of the most useful courses I took, and the skill obviously transferred to computer keyboards.

        Getting some things into "muscle memory" is good. Getting some things, like programming or language, into our brain organization is good.

        The old Visual Basic would be a bad choice, but

  • Totally agree (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cc1984_ (1096355) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @06:25AM (#38802885)

    Where I work, we have secretaries copying and pasting (using a mouse) passages from a intranet website into our database. It made me cry just watching it. Now forget the fact that the other end could set up a ReST interface, a simple screen scrape would make a job that took hours into a job that would take seconds.

    There is so much inefficiency in offices that could be eradicated if only people were a little savvier about what computers can do.

    • Re:Totally agree (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tom (822) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @07:25AM (#38803203) Homepage Journal

      Most of inefficiencies don't need a new system. They just need people to be better users.

      Here's a thought experiment. Teach all the secretaries in your company the 20 or so most important keyboard shortcuts. I guarantee you a measurable improvement of output.

      No programming knowledge needed.

  • But I don't think it should ever be forced. Not everyone has the aptitude or desire to learn how to program, and a majority probably don't need to (although, if it turns out that they're somewhat decent at it, it may be able to make some things easier for them).

  • by digitaldude99 (1861666) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @06:29AM (#38802923)
    The world doesnt need any more programmers. I should know, I have been looking for a programming job for ages and no one will give me a job. On the other hand, there is a shortage of engineers. In the oil industry there is a dire shortage of engineers, anyone qualified as a chemical engineer can command a good salary, yet strangely all the univerisity courses on this in the UK are being closed down in place of non vocational courses. No one in the media or government seems aware of this. Instead of all these shows on TV telling people what a good idea it is to try and be a pop star or super model, they should have shows encouraging people to take up more practical professions.
    • No mod points. Have a +20 Yes all that. They do run a few programs on the BBC of "How to build ..." http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00lysc9 [bbc.co.uk]
      To stop home mind rot I got rid of my TV, stick to iplayer and take my son to the science museum as often as possible.You have to build geeks these days.
  • by emilper (826945) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @06:30AM (#38802931)

    Programming is a calling, not a profession. Let them try programming as soon as possible, get those with the calling identified and cultivate their ability.

    Yes, most of them probably won't get a CS degree ... so what ? Domain knowledge is as important as knowing algorithms, if not more important. There is need for accountants-programmers, linguists-programmers, geologists-programmers etc. Computer Science degrees are for those that want to write compilers, operating systems, new DB engines, routing algorithms etc. For the rest, the (probably innate, not educated) ability to stay stuck to a chair 10h/day running lines of code in the virtual machine in your head and having fun while doing it, logical thinking, basic algorithms and domain knowledge are more important.

  • There's a difference between using tools and making them. Programming in some ways falls between but it's more akin to the latter, and not every tool user is a tool maker.

    This was so even thousands of years ago. Scraping a bearskin isn't nearly so tricky as flint knapping.

  • Nice in concept. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lattyware (934246) <gareth@lattyware.co.uk> on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @06:34AM (#38802959) Homepage Journal

    I love the idea, because I would have loved it, however, one has to remember that not everyone loves programming the way we might do.

    I think that courses should be offered earlier and in a much more useful form, and definitely some programming and CompSci theory should be put in the curriculum to give an understanding, but for the average person, deep programming knowledge isn't the main thing needed. Definitely giving people the chance to learn if they want to is very important.

    I think the more important thing is to teach basic logic and debating skills at a young age. People really lack basic skills like spotting logical fallacies and following an argument. I think teaching some formal logic at a young age would really increase political participation, increace scientific and computing ability, lower people falling for scams like phishing, and increase general learning ability.

  • This video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob_GX50Za6c) shows Steve Jobs describing how powerful computers can be for the human race ('a bicycle for our minds') so it makes sense to teach kids how to get on that bike and ride.

    • by Tom (822)

      You are misinterpreting Steve.

      Riding a bicycle is something that I agree most people should be able to do.

      Building a bike is something that only a few will ever want to learn how to do, and it is perfectly ok for a society if only a few do it, and it is generally better if a few good people create good bikes than if everyone created his own and most of them are crap.

  • by jholyhead (2505574) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @06:37AM (#38802975)
    Do we want a generation of kids to grow up despising programming and programmers? Look at what the education system does to English Literature, Maths and Science.

    Kids grow up loathing Shakespeare because it isn't taught in the same context that it was written for. Kids grow up to hate maths because they've been force fed the mundane basics since they were 5. Do we honestly think they'll do a better job with programming?

    I'm all for a more thorough coverage of Comp Sci and ICT - of which programming is obviously a part, but it should be weighted to play to the strengths and interests of the individual students. Some students will take to programming, others to graphics and animation, but as soon as you start making stuff compulsory, you find yourself forced to water down the content and you end up sucking the joy out of it.

    Those of us with Comp Sci university backgrounds will probably remember how miserable those students who didn't 'get' programming were. Do we really want to do that to kids?
    • by ledow (319597)

      I think you're mistaken here, although your question is certainly relevant.

      Kids grow up to loathe Shakespeare even when it's taught correctly. They loathe it because it's hard. I still struggle to spot a joke in a Shakespeare "comedy" (and while I agree they should be exposed to it, far too much emphasis is placed on its educational importance). Maths is hard. Computer science is hard. Programming is, for the majority of people, hard because it involves quite a bit of maths.

      Try explaining to the averag

      • by u38cg (607297)
        Shakespeare is a bugbear of mine. They are plays. Take a bunch of kids and get them to produce one of them. They'll get it; in fact, they can't not. Yet if you force them to grapple a wall of blank text, they can't. And who can blame them?
    • I disagree. I don't think teaching a subject makes kids hate something. It's all about how the subject is approached. When you add visual elements to coding it can make it more easily understood by just about everyone. All high level courses have entry level courses too. You shouldn't expect to be feeding advance programming to high school students. All you want them to grasp is the basic logic and troubleshooting, they don't need to design the next hit game while in high school.
      • Teaching a subject badly makes kids hate something. Why do you think that they will do a better job of teaching programming than they do with Maths, Science, English etc?
  • We live in a world of information. So let's teach them about information. What's the meaning of information? How has it been encoded, stored, reproduced, processed and transmitted throughout history?

    It should include some material about the concept of processing information by an algorithm, but I'm not sure actual programming classes are really for everyone.

  • I missed something (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @06:46AM (#38803023) Homepage Journal

    I missed why this should be mandatory. I missed why we should attempt to educate kids who cannot read, do simple arithmetic, identify their MP (the writer is from the UK). I'm guessing this author grew up in a mostly white, middle to upper class area, knows mostly white, middle class people, and thinks the most pressing issues are the ones facing white, middle class people.

  • by Cyberax (705495) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @06:48AM (#38803031)

    What I'd really want is for schools to teach the basics of computer science. So that everybody at least knew what the word 'encoding' means when applied to information, what digital data is and why it's different from analog signals, etc.

    It'd definitely cut down the number of people sending screenshots in JPG and bying Monster HDMI cables.

    • by Tom (822)

      Mod parent up.

      Please give more people a basic understanding of what computers are about. The difference between "analog" and "digital" will be much more valuable to many more people than the difference between for and while.

      And it will save us geeks tons of headaches when we don't feel like talking to babies whenever things get more complicated than "press any key to continue".

  • 'Code', yes, but code in what? I was a 'programmer' when young, and it was a great relief when COBOL came along and we could just write down what we wanted done (and then 'compile' on 2 tape units). Halcyon days. Now even with a house full of PCs and Linux things you can't do anything new without mastering syntax more abstruse than Algol or Fortran ever was.
  • Benifits (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Faisal Rehman (2424374) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @06:59AM (#38803081) Homepage
    Coding strengthens other areas, like logic, mathematics, detailed visualozation of problem, focus and insight
  • A CS nerd will want to teach his kids to program as much as a fisherman will have the urge to teach his kids to fish.

    What if the kid isn't cut for programming, will you still shove it down his throat??

    captcha: choice is good.

  • by Tom (822) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @07:16AM (#38803153) Homepage Journal

    I said this before in a different topic, but please don't.

    We already have way, way too many PHBs who think they know what coding is because they once wrote a simple script in Visual Basic, two MS Word Macros and know formulas in Excel.

    We don't have a shortage of people who know how to code. But we do have a massive shortage of people who can code well. And teaching programming to kids before we have figured out how to properly teach coding is a disaster waiting to happen. Case in point: A C++ university course where I helped someone out last week. They actually teach them crap that will lead to exploitable code first, and then (in the next module) they tell them that there's border conditions they should check for. If only these idiots would go bungie-jumping without a rope first, and then add the rope on the 2nd jump, we would have much better code.

    Almost all the "simple programs" that you teach people to code with are horrible pieces of junk, from input validation to testing. It teaches bad habits and it gives people a wrong impression on what coding is like. And even if (hopefully) these half-taught idiots won't ever write any code in their lives, they may well end up as the managers who decide the deadlines for the programmers.

    Please don't teach coding to kids. Teach it to the few who actually enjoy fiddling and can concentrate long and well enough to focus on the details to get it right. We don't need more code in this world, we need better code.

    • "We already have way, way too many PHBs who think they know what coding is because they once wrote a simple script in Visual Basic, two MS Word Macros and know formulas in Excel."

      The worst of them are the electrical engineers who think they know everything about software engineering just because they programmed a microcontroller in C.

  • I think this could on some levels replace higher level math in junior/high school or give kids the option to choose between the two. They largely cover the same categories, only one is quite a bit more applicable and hands on. You get to actually watch your work unfold in front of you and actively problem solve and troubleshoot. Not just do a problem set, bring it in the next day, have the teachers correct, correct your errors, rinse and repeat ad-naseum.

    Programming can even be fun. Keep in mind I'm not tal
  • If the answer is "no," then don't bother trying to learn computer programming.

    No amount of education, expensive tools and technology will solve that problem that most humans have.

  • Teaching kids to code has more significance than just training future programmers or improving basic computer literacy (which is on the increase http://www.eurojournals.com/ajsr_3_07.pdf [eurojournals.com] ). Like mathematics, programming presents a method of solving problems that is generally applicable. Even if children don't go into science or a technical profession the patterns of though which programming experience will encourage should allow kids to reason more effectively when solving a problem. Obviously this may not
  • Please stop! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RobinEggs (1453925) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @07:49AM (#38803321)

    If you can't code, you are forced to rely on those that can to ensure that you can benefit from the greatest tool at your disposal

    I really wish computer scientists would get over themselves. At least the arrogant ones who, like conceited physicists and preening economists, think all the problems on Earth are merely esoteric subsets of their own field of study, which they'll get around to solving in due time. Interesting philosophical arguments about universal language aside, it's simply not true that everything is better with computers or better if reduced to pure math. There are fantastic uses for programming and computing in damn near every field, but it's ludicrous seeing programmers argue, again and again, that every engineer or scientist should be a programmer, much less every citizen. Not everything is better with a computer; some things are even worse.

    It's not the goddamn Matrix yet, either; we're not "forced to rely on" people who program any more than we're forced to rely on people who grow food or fix cars. We all rely on all of those people, we're comfortable with some divisions of labor, and while computers are useful in every field that doesn't make programming the most useful skill of all. It makes it the most general skill, perhaps, but that's not an argument for universal programming literacy in and of itself. Maybe every industry needs programmers, but programmers need not become the core of every industry. Nor do I believe that programming teaches any particular problem solving or critical thinking talent, regardless of the language or whether the skills are actually used to program, better than logic, chemistry, or even anthropology courses.

    We certainly don't yet need to regard programming as a component of basic literacy, in any case.

  • Two things (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gideon Wells (1412675) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @07:54AM (#38803343)

    1) Basic computer literacy, if you can manage that. My school had typing or basic computer literacy mandatory. Strange as the computer literacy course included a section on typing. My school had two programming courses.

    2) Increasingly dependent on the few? This isn't limited to just computers. How many of us here on /. can sew our own clothes from scratch? Have gardens capable of feeding our families year round? Able to repair our own cars? Fix our televisions, built our furniture, make the thread used to sew our clothes, possibly even wire and pipe our own homes? And the time to do it all?

    Anyone can learn all of this, including coding, but is it time effective? It is a trade off for living in these interesting times. Somewhere, on some thing, we will always be dependent on others. A bit of mandatory coding isn't going to change this. As a geek I'm tempted to say this is a good idea. Then I step back and ask myself do I really want sewing, small engine repair, gardening, etc. all to be mandatory?

  • by MrMickS (568778) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @08:41AM (#38803583) Homepage Journal

    We rely on a select few to carry out a number of things in society. There are a select few doctors, barristers, engineers, dentists, etc. Its the way that our society works. IMO we have too many people in IT today that are doing it because its a job rather than because they understand it. This leads to many of the issues we see in IT.

    If they are going to teach anything in schools make it problem solving, which already exists as part of some mathematics curriculums but has fallen into disuse because its tricky. Improve computer literacy in a general sense. Almost all homes have networks these days, explain how that works, etc. These can be done in the abstract but with practical application. Its the abstract that the children need to learn at this age because that base knowledge will be useful regardless of vendor etc.

  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @09:40AM (#38804015) Homepage Journal

    Society can have no higher purpose than to produce a world full of people who are more like me.

    Everyone thinks this, whether they're a software engineer or a sous chef. And we're all right, because we're imagining training future generations to be more like the *best* of ourselves and never the worst. We coders imagine a society full of creative problem solvers. We don't imagine a future full of people who are arrogant toward anyone they can find a reason to feel superior to.

    Now I happen to think TFA does a poor job of arguing its point. It claims that coding will teach "logic and reason",but it uses these terms in a very loose way. On this basis a businessman has just as much claim that learning to make decisions about allocating resources teaches "logic and reason". A landscape painter could argue that learning to paint teaches "logic and reason", because you have to work according to aesthetic principles. If you think art is a bit loosey goosey, consider how a pure mathematician looks at coding; sure it's *governed* by mathematical logic, but what isn't? Clearly everyone should be trained in the methods of philosophical investigation.

    Coding is very much akin to fine art. Yes, you've got to satisfy the compiler and produce a consistently working product, but the real secret sauce in coding is *imagination*. Coding is about transforming your mental representation of a problem from something you don't know what to do with to something that can be broken down with a little persistence. B-trees, hash tables, web services, function closures ... none of these things were discovered by studying nature, but through feats of imagination.

    It'd be great if everyone learned the kind of intellectual skills that coding sharpens. The problem with this idea is that it doesn't make room for all the other really valuable lessons other disciplines have. Yes it would be great if *everyone* was trained in coding, and *nothing else had to be thrown out of the curriculum*. The same goes for accounting, law or military strategy. But soon you get the point where you've claimed *all* childrens' free time. You're nowhere near teaching them everything that would be handy to know, but you've taken away time that they could use learning to direct their own energies and imagination.

    I think teaching *everything to somebody* is a good idea, but teaching *everything to everybody* is a bad one.

    There is such a thing as too much standardization in education. A little standardization is a good thing; we want everyone to be able to read and calculate and understand their roles as citizens. But taken to an extreme, you run up against an unforgiving truth: you can't teach someone *everything* that they might need to know. If you try, you end up with things that nobody learns that somebody ought to. Education ought to embrace both *standardization* and *diversity* as goals, both pursued in moderation. At present I believe the pendulum in the US at least has swung too far toward standardization.

    There's only one thing I'd want to see added to education everywhere, and it's more a matter of attitude than knowledge. There's altogether too many people who when faced with a difficult problem say things like "I'm no good at math", "I'm no good at foreign languages" or "I have no artistic talent". I think it's important for people to recognize and acknowledge thier limitations, but also to believe they can overcome those limitations. A homeowner confronted with a geometry problem should think, "I'm no good at math, but if I applied myself I could figure this out." A nurse in an emergency room might think, "I'm no good at languages, but I tried I could learn enough Cambodian to ask patients to point to what hurts."

  • by cdecoro (882384) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @10:09AM (#38804331)

    A lot of people here make a good point that is, however, not relevant. Namely, that "we don't need more programmers." I'm inclined to agree, especially hearing from friends about how difficult the job market is for many of them. However, this criticism misses the point: we want to teach those that *aren't* going to programmers, in order to provide them with a well-rounded education.

    Most of the people that are taught algebra (or any math above basic arithmatic) will never use it in their work, much less be mathematicians. Same for a foreign language, or history, geography, chemistry, physics, etc. For that matter, it is completely irrelevant to the lives of the vast majority of people whether humankind developed after billions of years of evolution, or created in a day. Yet I don't see many slashdotters arguing in favor of those religious groups that don't want to teach accurate biology. Children should be given exposure to as much information and knowledge as possible, to make them better informed and educated adults. What they do with it then is up to them.

    Other countries do a better job producing more well-rounded students. Let me give an example: A German friend, a Ph.D. student in comparative literature, asked what my CompSci Ph.D. thesis was about. I said "mathematical integration," and asked her if she was familiar with the term (from experience, most Americans without science backgrounds are not). "Obviously," she said "I did graduate from high school, you know."

    Apparently, in Germany, everyone at university-bound high schools takes calculus. It's just expected. It doesn't matter if they're going to be in science or math. It is taught in case they might use it, and so that they can be generally more-knowledgeable people. The same, in my view, should apply with programming. It teaches rigorous, formal thinking skills, something that is sorely lacking in American academia.

The meta-Turing test counts a thing as intelligent if it seeks to devise and apply Turing tests to objects of its own creation. -- Lew Mammel, Jr.

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