[Edu-sig] Clarifying my role @ Pycon for Teachers

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Sat Dec 6 20:37:21 CET 2008

Just to clarify a little more, how I'm envisioning Python for Teachers, in
case some of you are thinking about attending:

I'm wanting to stay anchored in the Pycon demographic, which is mostly
private sector geeks with dependents in many cases, not many high school
math teachers or anything close.

My premise, then, is I'm a manager type in the Silicon Forest (not a lie)
and am surrounded by large organizations that are short on geeks, in terms
of having them on board, and don't even know it, because many big business
subcultures haven't tuned in any of what we on this list probably take for
granted:  a thriving geek culture based in open source sharing and free
access to tools.  There're still stuck in the COBOL world, or even with
MUMPS (see my "suMerian" meme, also math-thinking-l).

As such a manager, I'm frustrated with the schooling around here, but rather
than just whine and complain, I get access to classrooms and start showing
off how it might really be done, were those of my breed allowed to interact
with the kids (rarely happens, rules prevent -- even though I've been
cleared at the state level to work with kids, with fingerprinting and
everything, same as any union teacher).

But among peers, fellow geeks, this is more just an excuse to tell some
company war stories, share Python source, and enjoy the science fiction
feeling of being in a culture that *we* had designed, rather than muggles,
i.e. those who don't know what SQL means, even after enduring like four
years of "mathematics" pre-college (not they're fault -- SQL doesn't make it
past the relevance filters, gotta learn more about factoring polynomials,
like you'll need on the job (snicker)).

What if circus performers designed your gym class?  It wouldn't be like it
is.  What if Pythonistas taught your junior how to program math objects,
like vectors and polynomials.  Why, he'd grow up employable, ready to
rumble, ready for work, maybe without even going to college right away (that
could come later, on the company's dime maybe).  As a parent, you'd be
pleased.  Finally, junior is excited about hard fun, programs just for the
love of it (pretty freakish).

Steve Holden has a very clear sense of the job market as well, what's out
there in terms of opportunities, trends.  I'm hoping he'll help keep me
focused, so if I get too pedantic with the RSA bit (a little group theory,
easy Python), or with VPython vectors (rbf.py), he can suggest "too much
like a math teacher" (subtle facial cues maybe) and I'll snap out of it.
I'm a CEO not some nutty professor, praise Allah, plus I don't plan on doing
too much of the talking.  The premise of peer programming is peers after
all, so I'm more just a guide.

Speaking of the job market, I think I said on this list that I'm subscribing
to the philosophy that no one geek ever gets to sit on a code pile as the
only sole responsible reader and writer thereof.  The days of the solo code
pile are over, though of course we still have time alone in which to
collaborate asynchronously.

Kirby Urner
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