[Edu-sig] Python as Application

Kirby Urner urnerk at qwest.net
Sat Oct 29 22:31:26 CEST 2005

> > The idea of making an end run  around  review, debate and evidence -
> > call me old fashion - doesn't seem to me like a good idea.
> Trying to find my own theme.  The recent technological burst of energy has
> created exciting new possibilities, and, with it  - in my view - an
> overpopulation of MUHs - Men of Unfathomable Hubris.
> Seems to me we have the possibility of accepting the one, and rejecting
> the other.
> Art

There's nothing to stop academia from commenting upon, debating, field
testing Alan Kay's ideas.  Just because he's sometimes behind a corporate
podium (Xerox, Atari, HP, Apple, Disney) instead of a university one doesn't
impress me much, given the highly permeable membrane between private think
tanks, research companies, and graduate schools.  

I reserve the right to stand behind a company podium, if invited to do so by
a company I respect.

I'd rather *not* have Alan booed off stage, given I'd like to hear what he
has to say.  Fortunately, given the Internet, it's not a matter of stages,
podiums, and obnoxious audiences.  I'm able to access the guy's thinking
rather more directly:

>From this Wikipedia article [1] I went to the streaming video [2], which was
plenty interesting.  


Developing fluency in math and science is tough fun, like learning a musical
instrument, and is what kids need to do to access the somewhat invisible,
non-telegenic world of science-minded adults.

Computers can help provide this access, for example by making clear the
distinction between real mathematics, which is not about anything physical,
and the sciences, which use mathematics to investigate and model the
physical.  They're a great tool for scientific visualization and probing --
but only a tool, reflective of human thought.  

music:piano :: language:computer.

He talks about what a benevolent despot might do to improve education, but
acknowledges a top-down approach would be unpalatable in a democracy, and
prone to failure anyway.  He sees the Internet and personal computers as
contributing to a bottom-up approach.

Lots of autobio mixed in (an advanced reader early on, alienated by school,
with a scientist dad, musician mom, and author granddad with thousands of

Fun quote (some Englishwoman prodding USAers):  "The USA offers the best
high school education in the world... too bad you have to go to college to
get one."

Anyway, I have no intention of pursuing your strategy of vilifying Kay
simply on the basis of how he gets his funding, and with almost no
discussion of his actual ideas.

I do agree with your earlier point, that students shouldn't confuse classes
of application (e.g. spreadsheet, word processor, database, browser), with
special case implementations or instantiations thereof (e.g. Excel, MySQL).
That would seem an easy point to communicate, especially by projecting some


[1]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Kay


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