[Edu-sig] SIGCSE 2006 - Special Session on Teaching with Python

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Mon Feb 27 15:53:09 CET 2006

> Well we are talking about CS courses.  So I hear you reluctantly
> agreeing that there this it is appropriately core curricula.  The first
> 2 words of the title of  Brad's book is 'Problem Solving' - implying  a
> "means to an ends".  What else?

Not really reluctantly.  When learning scuba, it's good to learn about
Boyle's law.  And why does a bottle of coke fizz when you open it?  That's
part of an explanation for something too (if you run out of air, rise to the
surface slowly, exhaling as you go, and you'll find you keep having enough
air -- but god help you if you didn't obey the navy dive tables in the first

But is the point of scuba to fill your head with this stuff?  Not really.
The point is to go down there and admire all the pretty fish, to find nemo
if you will.  I'm into helping students find their private nemos, whatever
that means in special case -- which entails learning algorithms and data
structures along the way.

Re 2 words ("problem solving"): I'm not disagreeing with Brad in any way
that I know of.

Kay? You admire him.  I judge his public persona harshly. He is
> paraphrases by an admirer:

""nothing exciting about computing today has to do with data structures
> and algorithms"""

I do admire Kay, more for his track record of good inventions in CS (e.g.
OO/SmallTalk).  That's what entitles him to rub people the wrong way with
deliberately provocative statements.  If he were just some guy off the
street who'd read a few CS books, the effect wouldn't be the same.  That
being said, if *all* he does is rub people the wrong way, then I'd consider
him a has been, a once great star who should now step aside and introduce us
to whom he considers most promising going forward.  Kay's students deserve
my attention, perhaps more than Kay himself.

Kay reminds me of Ted Nelson.  Ted is notoriously a contrarian and likes to
use the podium to decry, to broadcast his dismay with this or that dominant
paradigm in computing (like, don't get him started on spreadsheets).

Personal note:  I've never met either Kay or Ted in person, nor even
attended a live talk or lecture or presentation by either.  I'd like to have
that privilege sometime.  In the meantime, there's streaming video and
journalistic accounts.

I don't think there is *nothing* to that statement. But his way is to
> overstate things, not state things.  I don't think that is appropriate
> for someone claiming to represent the high order of any branch of
> science - as he so claims.
> Art

A root meaning of 'geek' is circus performer of some kind.  Sometimes you
need front men and women who rile, provoke, stir things up.

You may sense in my defense of Kay an implicit defense of my own possible
role going forward:  as someone who deliberately sparks controversy, by
saying things repeatable in cocktail parties, with lots of tittering, with
others going home offended to bash their pillows late into the night:  take
THAT you Kirby guy, and THAT, and THAT....

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