[Edu-sig] How do we tell truths that might hurt

ajsiegel at optonline.net ajsiegel at optonline.net
Wed Apr 21 13:36:18 EDT 2004

To me the most significant aphorism from Dijkstra's essay:

"How do we tell truths that might hurt?"

is the second:

The easiest machine applications are the technical/scientific computations. 

In advocating math/science explorations as the focus in introductory level programming education it might well sound like one in advocating some kind of ideologoical sense of rigour over a more gentle and humane approach to the subject of programming.  But if one accepts that: 

The easiest machine applications are the technical/scientific computations. 

one is simple advocating starting at the beginning.  And demonstrating and elucidating and empowering folks to handle the easy before one attempts to ask them or expect them to approach the more difficult.

And for those that go no further, they will have learned to do some actually useful things, in a programming language..

In other realms, the path to be able to do something actually useful is much longer.

Yes, a Literature student might be enticed to know that programming could be made useful in finding semantic patterns in the works of Joyce. The problem is that its hard.  Much harder than using numeric and geometric concepts as a jumping off point.

I, for one, never expect to understand how to compile a pattern using the re module. (if I even stated that lack of understanding correctly).


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