[Edu-sig] Re: How do we tell truths that might hurt (reply to all)

Jim Leisy jimleisy at fbeedle.com
Mon May 3 12:08:48 EDT 2004

Hello All--Scott David Daniels has made some great observations. I have 
been a computer science textbook editor for the past 26 years. My career 
straddles two major programming paradigm shifts and several big language 
trends. Below the ==== is an email I have been sending to college CS 
department heads to inspire a revolutionary change in CS0 and CS1. In it I 
reference the historic shift from FORTRAN to Pascal. Pascal did a great job 
of introducing neophytes to structured programming and computer science 
concepts. The sun set on Pascal, principally, because it was not an 
industry standard production language. Python has many of the same 
attributes and none of the perceived drawbacks. Computer science education 
is contending with circumstances very similar to those of the era that gave 
rise to Pascal.

The motivation for my campaign is a strong belief in the benefits Python 
can bring to computer science education, and to encourage the use of John 
Zelle's textbook Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science 
(published by my company).

Cheers, Jim


Professor ( ___________),

I think we are experiencing deja vú in computer science.

FORTRAN once was the gateway to the discipline. It was a quagmire for 
students. Wirth created Pascal to
address this and to support a paradigm shift—structured programming 
methodology. Pascal took. Over 80% of
the colleges in the US taught CS1 using it well into the 90s.

Remember the flood of students intent on majoring in CS? Retention is a 
serious issue everywhere. C++ and Java are
now the gateway. Are they assets in the effort to attract majors? Frequent 
compiler syntax errors create mounting frustration
in students. Few programs are written and computer science fundamentals are 

A growing number of colleges have switched to Python in CS1 (they 
transition into C++ or Java in CS2). It works. Students
write more programs and learn computer science fundamentals. It is an OO 
language and open source—the language and tools are all free. It's used by 
Google, Industrial Light & Magic, John Deere, and NASA. Like Pascal it 
makes things simple, not simplistic.

We've got a great book to support the switch: John Zelle's Python 
Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science. Would you like to review 
it? Is there anyone in the department who should see it?

Cheers, Jim

Jim Leisy
Franklin, Beedle & Associates Incorporated
8536 SW St Helens Drive, Suite D  Wilsonville, Oregon 97070  USA
free (USA) call 1-800-322-2665    otherwise call 
fax 1(503)682-7638

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