[Edu-sig] Slashdot article: Do Kids Still Program?

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Sat Apr 29 22:52:30 CEST 2006

> But none of our math folks program or know Python! Ideas? I'd be
> happy to teach them if I could get them interested. Kirby, I think I
> need an immersion into your stuff somehow. (In my copious spare time,
> of course, which I have a negative amount of :-).
> --
> Best regards,
>  Chuck

I think it's a question of whether we're in the middle of a cultural
shift wherein adults accept the need for life long learning more
realistically, and don't worry too much about "starting over".

I see two positive indications that this is the case:

(1)  with increasing life spans and more health to look foward to
after 50, more adults are willing to start new careers even into their
40s and beyond.  It's no longer unrealistic to consider medical school
in one's 30s, as there's still ample time for a productive career,
even after several years retraining (my friend Henry is going that
route, and thriving).

(2) all the 'for dummies' and 'complete idiot' titles out there. 
People are less afraid to admit they don't know, because the technical
fields are so obviously vast that it has become apparent that *nobody*
knows it all (in the old days, ignorant peasants used to think the
King maybe knew everything).

Trying to reach a set of goals involving math comprehension by means
of steeping oneself in a computer language would be a definite
"starting over" for a lot of teachers.

The kids I'm teaching these days (today in fact) think this is simply
a sensible and intelligent approach (they love my classes), but the
adults are more in wonderment, as this really does seem like an alien
curriculum to them.

But I think we're probably entering an era when "trying new things"
will be in vogue again.

In the meantime, nations which have already declared emergencies
around math teaching (e.g. South Africa) *are* ready to start over and
try new things, so the math-through-programming approach *is* set to
take off in some places, if not everywhere.

Those sitting it out, on the sidelines for this round, will be in a
position to learn from our mistakes, as we barrel ahead.  That's the
good news.  The bad news is they may never catch up, if they wait too


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