[Edu-sig] Python as a first language for computer sciencist

Arthur ajsiegel at optonline.net
Thu Oct 20 15:58:25 CEST 2005

> -----Original Message-----
> From: edu-sig-bounces at python.org [mailto:edu-sig-bounces at python.org] On
> Behalf Of Rodrigo Senra
> Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2005 8:26 AM
> To: Mark Engelberg
> Cc: edu-sig at python.org
> Subject: Re: [Edu-sig] Python as a first language for computer sciencist
> [ Mark Engelberg ]:
> > 2.  My teaching experience is limited, but I did teach one programming
> > class to a group of middle-schoolers.  The most common mistake was, by
> > far, simple misspellings of variable names (usually capitalization
> > confusion).  When a compiler catches this, it's no big deal.  When a
> > compiler reports cryptic error messages, or none at all, for such a
> > common mistake, that can be a big problem.

There is certainly a *lot* that has been said on this point in the Python

Do you know that Guido was at one point contemplating making Python case
insensitive based on prior reports of just this issue in just this age

It always seemed to me that doing so would perhaps get us to the point that
we began to better understood the *next* major stumbling block of
middle-schoolers trying to learn to program in Pytthon.  And if we then
addressed them one by one in this manner we would end up with a language
that was not Python, had little utility for real programmers, with the
pay-off being discovering that middle-schoolers (in general, there are
certainly going to be exceptions) had limited ability to absorb the
intricacies of what could be called "programming" in a real world sense.

I don't actually know much about Logo.

But do know it has something of a grand enough history, active supporting
communities, lots of curriculum support, field testing, etc.

And never quite understood on what basis the Python community felt the need
to contend with it head-to-head.   

Python's (and Guido's) ABC heritage seems a factor here.  But I never quite
understand on what basis.  Guido has said (I believe) that the audience he
had in mind when designing Python was the C programmer - though certainly
using some technical and usability lessons he learned in his ABC days.  It
certainly would be wonderful if a few tweaks of a language designed for C
programmers could become the perfect thing for middle-schoolers. But lots of
things would be wonderful, if... 

Have fallacies in the Logo approach been identified as some starting point?


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