[Edu-sig] Programming in High School

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Mon Dec 8 20:39:01 CET 2008

On Mon, Dec 8, 2008 at 11:26 AM, David MacQuigg
<macquigg at ece.arizona.edu> wrote:
> At 08:22 AM 12/8/2008 -0800, kirby urner wrote:
>>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,
> I've also heard the argument that most kids will never be programmers ... missing the point that the important learning experience is a way of thinking, not the skill at a particular language.  You never know when a poor kid might become somebody important.

Exactly right.  It was never about "becoming a pro programmer" for me,
any more than learning how to drive means you're planning on becoming
a chauffeur for a living, even if some of us do.  These choices come
later.  What's important at the secondary level is to keep doors open,
and that includes showing off geek subcultures as potentially
attractive, having a footprint for recruiting purposes.  We'll not
take a back seat to the pro mathematicians, who apparently obsess
about parabolas, think "integration by parts" is the bees knees (go

>>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.
> I wonder if Obama has any ability in computer thinking.  He will need it if he is going to referee all the experts he has swarming around him.  I see some underlings in the Department of Homeland Security, frustrated after years of laissez-fair, have formed an Internet Security Alliance, and are pushing for major involvement by the Feds.  This could be good if Obama understands what they are saying, or bad if he can't distinguish between good advice and glib nonsense.  Let's hope Vint Cerf can keep him on the right track.

As president, it's not required that he be a geek, no precedent for
that in history so far, not even Garfield (though he would have been,
given the chance I think), Ben Franklin closest?  But no Python back
then, Ada still doing her first virtual machine thing (Babbage engine
not in her lifetime), weaving the first vaporware (all she could do,
same as Leibniz).  The only real chess playing computer back then was
The Turk, who turned out to be a dwarf (OK, a spoiler, but we can't
hide these things forever now can we?).

Just about everyone and their younger brother wants a piece of the war
on terror, DARPA deluged with proposals, most of them sounding quite
similar.  Obama will get the tour of the eye candy facilities (as seen
on TV), the giant multi-screen anti-terrorism centers that look like
one would expect.  He'll get briefed on this that and the other about
cyber security threats.  But he won't have to feel he's all alone in
the decision-making.  He has friends in high places that've served in
several administrations and are not inexperienced in these issues,
feeling upbeat about his team.

Anyway, not my problem.  I'm thousands of miles away in Silicon
Forest, working with Coffee Shops Network e.g. places like Back Space
and livingroom.com, trying to organize around the concept of meetings
for business that keep that Portland flavored edginess.  Very niche.
Can't say I'm really tracking all that's going on politically, have no
time for the political blogs for example, don't know if I've ever
checked the ones everyone talks about (used to check Buzz Flash, is
that still going strong?), though I do catch up via 'Comedy Central'
on DirecTV sometimes, CBS News (morning show too sometimes, now that
my daughter is into it).


PS:  here's another citation to Doug Engelbart, someone Alan Kay kept
going on about when Guido and I packed into that little meeting room
with Gunner, to have it out about the different languages and what to
do with them.  I got very little air time for my proposals, maybe 5
minutes in IDLE, mostly just had a very loud laptop fan, not running
Ubuntu, kind of awkward.  Loved how I got treated though, very kind
people, lots of Guinness, Indian food, great Cape Town hospitality, in
Kensington.  Fond memories.  http://programforthefuture.org/

More information about the Edu-sig mailing list