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

Dean Lake deanlake at fbeedle.com
Thu Apr 22 13:11:13 EDT 2004

At 07:27 PM 4/21/2004, Arthur wrote:

> >
> > Learning to print 'Hello World' in a programming language is comparable
> > learning the Latin name for 'foot' - interesting, but not useful unless
> > the
> > knowledge is built into something more robust.
>I think you misinterpret me, because you seem to be arguing against the gist
>of my post, when I seem to see myself in some fundamental agreement which
>much of what you are saying.

I wasn't arguing against you, rather I was making a general statement from 
a non-programmer's perspective - although I did use one example from your post.

>Programming, as such, is not the point to me, at all.

I agree. The skills needed to program come first - math, logic - and those 
skills are difficult and too time-consuming to learn to make  programming 
practical for me.

>What I do think is important is a vastly improved math and science
>curriculum, particularly for the non math and science specialist.  And I
>think about it mostly at the college level.

This goes to the heart of what I was saying. "When a discipline yells out 
that it needs to be taken more seriously by other disciplines, it is 
usually a cry for the impractical." Yes, a perfect world would make 
renaissance men/women of us all. But capitalism rules the day, and that 
makes Jack a highly-specialized, tax-revenue-producing, dull boy. If only 
we could all have patrons like Michelangelo. Oh, and we can blame tv, 
movies, and programmers (they created the time-wasting Internet) ;-)
It is just a new world where specialization has made everything more 
difficult to learn, and we have less time to do it.

When was the last time a department at a college asked for fewer classes 
and less money?

>Bertrand Russell, again:
>I am convinced that all higher education should involve a course in the
>history of science from the seventeenth century to the present day and a
>survey of modern scientific knowledge in so far as this can be conveyed
>without technicalities.

And I am convinced that all higher education should involve more than *a* 
course on this subject. In fact, there should be several courses on the 
history of things. In fact, there are in most subjects. Is there not one in 
science? Does not every survey textbook begin with a history? I do remember 
taking a CS survey course and the first thing taught was a history (the 
only thing I seem to remember was the woman who was a Navy admiral who 
helped invent COBOL.) Ditto with Biology.

>It is simply part of being awake in the world.  Or should be.

Should be, yes. I don't think a short history course in science would be 
too much to ask. But there are other disciplines wanting people to *be 
awake* as well. History of the Honey Bee, anyone?

>The people calling the shots - with all the best intentions let's assume -
>are the lawyers, the MBAs, the journalists, etc.  Not the mathematicians and

We get the leaders we deserve. Certain professions bestow a title of 
nobility on themselves and sooner or later people start believing it.

>I believe a rudimentary understanding of programming - in a language like
>Python - can be leveraged to achieve much more important goals, in the
>educational process, than that of a rudimentary understanding of programming
>in and of itself. In math and science education.

I remember in my CS survey class when we drew yes/no/goto programming trees 
by hand (1992?). Is that too rudimentary? I'm not sure I learned anything 
from it. What do you mean by a rudimentary understanding of Python? Learn 
to do what?

>This may be nothing more than my own version of the pie-in-the-sky that
>seems to be the bread and butter of edu-sig. But I haven't given up on my
>sense of things here, as of yet.

Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, 
if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper 
agreement than the latter. - Bertrand Russell


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