[Edu-sig] The best way to predict the future...

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Tue Jul 11 20:20:20 CEST 2006

OK Arthur, that's more clear, what you're saying.

Alan makes no secret of the fact that he's a SmallTalk Slayer, kinda
like Frankenstein, PhD doctor chasing down his last best superpowered

His magnum opus was pioneering and brilliant, but isn't what the world
needed ad infinitum.  As a creator-still-living, he has the integrity
to try shutting it down (most creators leave that to future
generations).  Problem is:  it's everywhere and has a lot of
followers, even still.

Python he didn't create, and he'll never get credit for it, but he
still wants OO to live up to its promises.  Python is a very clear
implementation of the OO paradigm.  A lot of us are excited about it
for just that reason.

In teaming up with the Python community, I think Alan is responding to
people who think the reason a glorious Renaissance in education never
occured, is because of some failing in the toys.

He's like a toymaker surrounded by still-unhappy children.  Why why?

Given the energy behind Python, maybe here's another chance to get
them laughing and playing and loving their laptops.  Ah, but maybe
we'll just make all the same mistakes all over again?

I come from another point of view.  Engineering has done its job, met
people way more than half way, and the reason we've not had a glorious
Renaissance is more like the reason we didn't get that big Peace
Dividend after the Berlin wall came down.

Too many are cynically invested in mediocrity, as a way to retain
control in the way they understand control, which involves lots of
intentional fearmongering.

Fighting this brand of control freak can't be done at the level of
computer language design.  If it could, we'd already have gnu math in
the schools and way more 8th graders would know who Guido and Alan
were.  A few might even be using PyGeo.

But the reality is:  teachers are afraid of Python, of hackers, of
geekdom, of technology.  We live in a culture of fear and ignorance.
We had that student on earlier, complaining he couldn't demo has class
project, because even a Linux boot CD was to scary for the school's IT
cult.  They regarded it as a threat to their authority.

So whereas I understand and appreciate your nuanced analysis of what
makes Kay tick vis-a-vis Python etc., I'm not about to pit Squeakers
against Snake Charmers, and turn this into some psychoanalysis of
business sector smarminess (a smarminess you claim to know a whole lot

To me, that's a sideshow.

I'm more like that lead narrator in the movie 'Why We Fight' (about
Eisenhower's dream-come-true):  he wants to find out what happened to
our Peace Dividend.

Yes, I'm encountering smarminess there too (a freezer full of cash in
some Congressman's house, who woulda thunk it), but this is more a job
for the FBI and so forth, not for gentle elves and their games with
glass beads (we collaborate through the X-Files).

I'm happy list Alan Kay as one of my heros, along with Seymour Papert,
the South African mathematician.  That doesn't mean I take my orders
from him, or plan to spend the rest of my days in Squeakland.

More it means I'm glad to see the Python community thinking about the
bigger picture.  This computers-in-education puzzle has been on the
table for a long time by now.  We need to see more of the pieces, and
how we'll get them is through collaboration.

Just having Guido and Alan meet, have some beers at a JurysDoyle, is a
big accomplishment.  We're building a more self-aware system, and
that's a good thing.


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