[Edu-sig] Programming in High School

Guido van Rossum guido at python.org
Tue Dec 9 03:52:30 CET 2008

On Mon, Dec 8, 2008 at 5:10 PM, David MacQuigg <macquigg at ece.arizona.edu> wrote:
> At 03:30 PM 12/8/2008 -0800, michel paul wrote:
>>>>What I would like to see is a discussion of *why* there is not more teaching of programming in high school.
>>I think part of the problem in the past has been the misunderstanding about tech jobs getting outsourced.  I've heard people say there's no point in becoming a programmer, because all the jobs are going overseas.  It's really kind of silly.
> Stated that way, it does seem circular.  I've heard it stated more convincingly by an EE prof to a class of undergrads.  "If you go into engineering, you will be facing layoffs."  Imagine the effect of that expectation on smart students who see their buddies going into law or medicine, and getting more pay and more respect than engineers.  It's no wonder there are almost no US students in our graduate classes.  I've thought about what I would have said to those students.  It would be more like "If money is your major motivation, find another profession.  If technology is in your blood, stay with it.  Learn everything you can.  The money will come out OK."

I read this as: Engineering is something where mediocrity doesn't pay.
Doctors and lawyers are like cobblers, their output is limited by the
number of hours they can work, so there is room for good solid workers
who aren't particularly innovative. Engineering at its best is not
like that at all. It's a field whose main *point* is to make manual
labor redundant. Good engineers do their work because it's their
passion. The rest... Well they can always try to earn a living
cranking out Java code. ;-)

> We need a shocker like Sputnik.

There won't be one. History doesn't repeat itself that literally. Each
crisis is fundamentally different, because each time we've learned
from the last one.

> Maybe this economic crisis will do it.  It's not as directly related to technical education as was Sputnik, and it may be even tougher to spend money on education now than it was in 1957, but consider the alternative.  What will we have to offer our trading partners.  Not manufacturing.  Not intellectual work.  Real estate?

I disagree that we have no intellectual work to offer. Most outsourced
work I have witnessed first-hand is poorly done. Yes, if your primary
skill is J2EE, you should be afraid, very afraid. (Or Perl, if the geo
data shown by Google trends is any indication. :-) OTOH if you have a
passion for inventing great engineering solutions, the USA is still
the place to be.

I think it's fine that engineering isn't the job creation engine that
people once thought it might be. It's a place where the best and
brightest shine. In the dot-com times everyone dropped out of whatever
they were doing and suddenly became a web designer. Of course, those
were most eagerly hired by dot-bombs, and the first to lose their

> I have high hopes we will come to our senses.  A year ago, I had almost everything in commodities.  Now I am switching back to stocks.  I just hope I can ride it out.

I don't get the connection. But maybe this is just your way of hinting
that you are in it for the money.

--Guido van Rossum (home page: http://www.python.org/~guido/)

More information about the Edu-sig mailing list