[Edu-sig] Stop the insanity: no more meta-discussion (was: "Killer Apps" vs. CP4E)

Kirby Urner pdx4d@teleport.com
Fri, 03 Mar 2000 17:26:15 -0800

Dave --

First off, I don't quite understand why "more meta-discussions" 
fit your criteria of "insanity".  Most lists I've been on lapse
into "meta mode" from time to time as people take stock and map 
out future directions.  Seems this thread is a lot more valuable 
than debating about whether Python should remain case sensitive 
or not -- but that's just me talking.

>implementation of (Did you write your own optimizing C++ compiler?  Virtual
>memory system?  Video card firmware?)

No, nor did I design the neural network behind my eyes, nor
the eyeballs I use to stare at my screen.  I agree with you:
if you start going deeper into it, you get to layers you 
won't find all that transparent -- or even if you eventually
understand them, they're still not your own work.  Point 
granted.  Absolutely.

>I think that all of the projects which are being discussed on this SIG are
>relevant, because they are all designed to provide pedagogically useful
>programming *interfaces*.  They don't have to be useful example code to
>contribute to CP4E; they just need to provide some service relevant to
>teaching programming and other subjects using Python.

When you say teaching programming "and" other subjects, does that 
also imply "or" -- meaning we can drop the "teaching programming" 
part?  That's what I was getting at with my little soap box speech.  

It seems to me that if you have a brilliant interface (for example 
Lotus 1-2-3, from VisiCalc, which set the standard for a whole 
breed of application) you don't necessarily have anything helpful 
vis-a-vis the goals of CP4E.

As it happens, Lotus 1-2-3 implemented "key stroke macros" and a 
lot of bizapp users really _did_ start to grok basic concepts of 
programming by using this feature -- Microsoft gradually weaned 
these people from a keystroke menu context over to various 
flavors of Visual Basic.  

So yes, Lotus 1-2-3 did have some merit from a CP4E standpoint. But 
a lot of high end apps do not (even if they're killers), because 
they're immediately opaque (to use your terminology) the moment 
you try to do anything like "program" with them, and/or understand
how they work (in general, I consider the open source movement
to be highly consistent with the goals of CP4E).

>Also, keep in mind that Guido created the edu-sig to discuss all kinds of
>applications of Python in education, not *only* CP4E.  It says so quite
>clearly on the SIG homepage.

Yes, that's true.  But I don't think that should mean individual
subscribers should keep silent about their own desires, needs,
motivations.  I've found it helpful when others have announced
their intentions and focus -- sometimes quite different from 

I think such statements help keep the discussion from drifting 
too aimlessly.  Because if we're really going to just chat about 
all the wonderful stuff that Python is doing or might do in 
various educational contexts, then we're sort of slicing at 
a weird angle IMO.  Like, why is it so important what language 
got used, if it's just another "black box" with a groovy interface?  

Why get all pumped and excited because such and such an app is 
written in Python and go ho hum because something else is 
written in C++ or Pascal -- even if they're both killer apps?  

That seems little more than "language bigotry", and I see no 
reason to indulge in it myself.  That's like cheerleading 
on behalf of English or French.  Great works can/have/will 
be written in either language.  Yeah, so?

>> To this end, I think Python is already adequate as is (as 
>> I've been saying from the beginning), and no additional apps 
>> are essential to furthering these goals.  
>If the presently available tools are adequate for *your* needs, that's
>great!  No one has complained about you using this forum to discuss your
>work.  However, other people might have different needs.  It's not clear to
>me why they shouldn't use this forum to discuss them.

I've said from the beginning that when I make statements about 
what I see as useful and important, I'm not meaning to play
moderator.  I don't moderate this group.  Anyone can post 
anything they like.  I just provide feedback, my two cents.
I encourage others to do the same -- that's healthy.

>> Seems to me that most of the relevant barriers to CP4E are 
>> political and administrative.  The technology is not the 
>> problem.  The problem is a creaky, obsolete, boring, 
>> unimaginative curricula.  
>As it happens, I agree.  However, I have neither skill nor leverage to
>attack that aspect of the problem.  If you do, why not respond to Randy
>Latimer's post, instead of complaining about progress in other directions?

I don't think I'm "complaining about progress in other directions".
My whole point is we're already there.  No more progress is needed 
(again, from my point of view), when it comes to having a highly 
teachable, fun, intelligent language that we can immediately 
press into service to advance the goals of CP4E. That's all good 

From my point of view, all we have to do is keep pumping out 
useful curriculum that makes transparent use of computer language,
and we'll quickly erode the authority of "has been" curricula
which no longer suit.  We have a winning hand.  Nothing can 
stop us.  Just a matter of time.  If administrators don't see
it, I know parents will, and most of them have an investment
in seeing their children get a relevant education.