[Chicago] Python in local school systems?

Martin Maney maney at two14.net
Thu Feb 1 07:18:04 CET 2007

On Wed, Jan 31, 2007 at 06:08:41PM -0600, Michael Tobis wrote:
> I think the expression was chosen deliberately by analogy to "literacy".

And that's the problem, because, as this discussion has more than
touched on, what people need to know about computers lacks the sort of
broad skills of literacy.  This is true of just about any qualified
literacy: they're all attempts to make something sound important (or
even concretely real) when it's not.

> You do not need to know any grammar to watch television, either.

You don't need to know, say, how to diagram a sentence structure, no. 
But being able to deserialize sentences into the internal forms by
which we understand the meaning is an application of grammatical
skills, too.

> The whole question about whether the purpose of education is job training
> comes up here.

Job training?  Heck, some days it seems the main purpose is just to
keep them off the streets for a good part of the day...

> I'm just a foreigner, but it seems to me that this violates the "eternal
> vigilance" clause  of the canon. How can a citizenry that doesn't think
> clearly manage a democracy?

About as badly as you'd expect, judging by the evidence in front of our
faces.  :-(

I was born in Chicago, but some days I feel like I must be more foreign
to this culture than a person from Mars...

> I taught two hours of Python to a computer club in an inner city school once
> to about a dozen kids. Every one of the kids knew their way around a file
> system better than most adults do. There was no digital divide as far as I
> could tell. They already know how to "drive" the mouse. They just don't know
> where to go.

Insofar as there is something real behind "computer literacy", that was
what they had.

> In the long run though I can't imagine how you can have a thriving democracy
> in a country where the majority of people isn't expected to know how to
> think. I presumed the idea that that school was largely about teaching
> children how to think. I thought this was conventional wisdom in a
> democracy. Maybe I'm just too Canadian or something. I am quite discouraged
> that the goal itself is in question, but I don't want to get into a
> controversy about it on this list.

Depressing but explains a lot: http://www.sourcetext.com/grammarian/

BTW, wasn't the phrase "conventional wisdom" coined by a Candian?  :-)

> Presuming that some school system somewhere *wanted* cognitive ability in
> high school graduates, would a modest amount of programming would help? If
> so, is Python the right language for that purpose?

MIT seems to think it possible.  :-)

the warfare on the cutting edge of any science draws attention
away from the huge uncontested background, the dull metal heft
of the axe that gives the cutting edge its power.  -- Dennett

More information about the Chicago mailing list