[Edu-sig] Programming in High School

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Wed Dec 10 23:39:28 CET 2008

On Wed, Dec 10, 2008 at 1:57 PM, Edward Cherlin <echerlin at gmail.com> wrote:

<< SNIP >>

> The occasion yesterday was the Program for the Future conference at
> the Tech Museum (San Jose CA), Adobe Systems, and Stanford, and the
> celebration of the 40th anniversary of Doug Engelbart's Mother of All
> Demos (look it up and watch the video), which laid the foundations for
> all modern user interfaces, and much else in software engineering,
> innovation support, and more. We have come nowhere near realizing it
> all. I talked with Doug, with Alan Kay (of Dynabook, Smalltalk and GUI
> fame) of Viewpoints Research Institute and with Mike Linksvayer from
> Creative Commons (look up their cc:Learn project) yesterday, and with
> Sugar Labs, FLOSS Manuals, and Open Learning Exchange before that, and
> they are all ready to talk about how we can do all this. So let me
> know about any subject and age range you want to work on.

This seemed an eloquent essay Edward, love poking fun at those
Prussians, aka control freaks par excellance.  Makes me start humming
bars from Pink Floyd ("hey, teacher...") just thinking about it.

Safe to say, much time has elapsed and for all the whining we hear
from constructivists, as if their way had never been tried, it has
been, with mixed results, which is to say we've had many success
stories, generations of geek reared on Dr. Spock, Vulcan Spock and
beyond, given microscopes, computers, free reign, lots of adulation in
school, quite the opposite of the Prussian philosophy.

Result:  Apple Computer, Silicon Valley, Silicon Forest.... i.e.,
thanks to the long-ago demise of top-down authoritarian thinking in
some circles, we have some thriving subcultures on planet Earth where
the mind runs free, bringing good things to life (GE slogan), making
the world a better place etc. etc.

The question is:  how to spread the love?  My approach is to leverage
local strengths, Portland's "good ats", and that's a pretty long list,
including cartoon-making, music, comedy and, yes, teaching Python at a
level most cities can't match, thanks to me, but also thanks to a lot
of people, many unsung (so far).  Tim Bauman comes to mind (one of my
proteges, aka Ki Master George).  Jason certainly (a fine teacher of
SQL Alchemy and like that).  Allison Randall, Damien Conway, R0ml,
Ravencroft...  a lot of us, right here on this list.

I'm not saying all of these celebs live in PDX, just that there's
reason to hope that we're not just now, at long last, emerging from
the dark ages, as if Prussia had just folded yesterday.  No, we've
been enjoying the fresh air for a few generations now, and are ready
to "bring it on" as one recent president put it (meaning something
else maybe, always hard to decipher that guy, study Dan Quayle as a
primer maybe?).

Guido's CP4E was a continuation of a noble tradition, Alan Kay in the
lineage, or Kenneth Iverson in my case (I encountered Alan much later,
long after I'd fallen in love with APL at Princeton, Alan then in his
"kill Smalltalk" slayer chapter (more in this archive))

I think the right approach is to think in terms of an svn tree, i.e. a
trunk with many branches.  We're *not* all converging to the same page
(this won't be Prussia again, don't worry).

Some of us, like me, will probably use J quite a bit, because of the
APL heritage.  Others will use Scheme / LISP, that Big Lambda family
(Python's is little lambda).

It's not about finding the "one right way to do it" (Prussian fallacy)
but rather one of encouraging local faculties to seize control of
their own destinies and not wait for "big publishers" to show them how
it's done.  We already have Cut the Knot, Mathworld, gazillions of
math-oriented YouTubes.  We're awash in relevant curriculum materials.

The last time I said anything about Kusasa (which was quite awhile
ago), it was to suggest there was no need for any new curriculum
writing whatsoever, just people need time to catch up, process what's
already out there. Of course that's a pretty stupid thing to say to a
bevy of curriculum writers rarin' to go, but I think you see my point

There's a documentary on Britney Spears on my TV at the moment, gotta
run.  She's one of those music millennium geeks I really appreciate
these days, love how she figures into our circus, no dummy that
grrrrl.  http://mybizmo.blogspot.com/2008/10/pythonic-math.html


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