[Edu-sig] Programming in High School

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Mon Dec 8 17:22:12 CET 2008

I think you're spot on about the "advantage over the poor" thing, as our
stronger public schools have a parent base that will fund and support Linux
labs, whereas where my daughter goes, they can't afford enough chairs for
the cafeteria, everyone has to spill out into Burgerville and Wendy's for
some reason, fancy that (maybe some programming involved, some proprietary
source we don't see?).

But in Portland, it's a given that Linux is woven into our culture.  We have
theatrical events around open source (e.g. Ignite...! at the Bagdad)
http://upcoming.yahoo.com/event/872418/  Torvalds lives here.  We're the
capital of open source, or is that Oregon City?

So yeah, Portland is a rich city, very little sign of any economic downturn,
lots of starving in the hinterlands per usual, because a lot of us learned a
callous, neglectful, neo-Malthusian economics in public school, as that's
what our grandfather's fathers thought made the most sense (Malthus was a
London School of Economics geek, did his best to play world game without
Google Earth, poor slob).

My plan is to fly to Chicago and help bring those midwesterners up to speed,
on the assumption my counterparts "back east" are handling New York, HQS of
our BFI and so on.  Actually, it's much smaller potatoes, not renting that
blimp, just chatting with my peers, already "on the inside" in education
(met a lot of you last year), and well position to help with the steering,
keeping us moving towards a brighter tomorrow, wherein kids learn that "math
is an extensible type system" and have Python right there on their desktops
(with tons of other fun toyz), to drive that point home.

My co-conspirators on this one are Steve Holden, a Gandalf in Python Nation
(very high rank), and Ian Benson (some kind of Elf? -- not one of ours
quite, sociality.tv ).  These are both highly skilled guys (XY) and it's a
real privilege to work with 'em, brings some balance to my day jobs, where I
mostly work with highly skilled gals (XX).  My HR chief, Suzanne, is like
the smartest person alive, and Wicca wise (senior partner for whom DWA is
named, my partnership, files and IRS 1065, business alias 4D Solutions per
US Bank records, 4D Studios another moniker... I could go on).

I guess my advice to the Obama team would be to avoid any "one size fits
all" attempts to converge to some "national curriculum" like many do in
Europe.  Each of the 50 states needs breathing room and none of them need
Washington DC to be bossing them around like they're slaves of some central
know-it-all.  We're a Federation, and this was never a monarchy.

This is even more pronounced in my case for example, out here on the west
coast.  My reality includes such as Angel of the Winds, Spirit Mountain...
Kahneetah, huge IT centers with state of the art software, leave Google in
the dust in terms of sophistication in some ways.  All very proprietary
though, you'll probably never see the inside of these IT temples unless you
get the tour before they open (how Mormons do it).  Yes, I'm talking
casinos, strategically positioned within semi-sovereign nations that
reinvest profits rather wisely, and for the long haul, earning lots of
community good will -- an economic asset even in troubled times.

In sum, I feel confidant that the Silicon Forest has much to offer the
Chicagoans, plus I was actually born there, so it's like another homecoming
for me (only got into the city once last year, Pycon being in the outskirts,
near O'Hare, still managed to miss my plane though, ended up driving all
night with GPS to find Indiana, Pennsylvania where Jimmy Stewart was from).


On Mon, Dec 8, 2008 at 6:57 AM, David MacQuigg <macquigg at ece.arizona.edu>wrote:

> Kirby,
> This is very well written appeal, but in this mailing list, you may be
> preaching to the choir.  What I would like to see is a discussion of *why*
> there is not more teaching of programming in high school.  I can't seem to
> get an answer from the few high-school teachers and students I have asked. I
> suspect it has something to do with requiring all kids to have their own
> computers, not wanting the rich to have an advantage over the poor, etc.
>  I've thought about teaching high school myself, but the bureaucracy seems
> overwhelming.
> At 11:37 AM 12/6/2008 -0800, kirby urner wrote:
> >...
> >
> >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).
> >
> >...
> >
> >Kirby Urner
> >4Dsolutions.net
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