[Python-Dev] Informal educator feedback on PEP 572 (was Re: 2018 Python Language Summit coverage, last part)

Michael Selik mike at selik.org
Sun Jun 24 20:33:55 EDT 2018

On Sun, Jun 24, 2018 at 4:57 PM Guido van Rossum <guido at python.org> wrote:

> On Sun, Jun 24, 2018 at 2:41 PM Michael Selik <mike at selik.org> wrote:
>> This thread started with a request for educator feedback, which I took to
>> mean observations of student reactions. I've only had the chance to test
>> the proposal on ~20 students so far, but I'd like the chance to gather more
>> data for your consideration before the PEP is accepted or rejected.
> Sure. Since the target for the PEP is Python 3.8 I am in no particular
> hurry. It would be important to know how you present it to your students.

Absolutely. Since this has come up, I'll make an effort to be more
systematic in data collection.

> On Sun, Jun 24, 2018 at 11:09 AM Steven D'Aprano <steve at pearwood.info>
>> wrote:
>>> Remember, the driving use-case which started this (ever-so-long)
>>> discussion was the ability to push data into a comprehension and then
>>> update it on each iteration, something like this:
>>>     x = initial_value()
>>>     results = [x := transform(x, i) for i in sequence]
>> If that is the driving use-case, then the proposal should be rejected.
>> The ``itertools.accumulate`` function has been available for a little while
>> now and it handles this exact case. The accumulate function may even be
>> more readable, as it explains the purpose explicitly, not merely the
>> algorithm. And heck, it's a one-liner.
>>     results = accumulate(sequence, transform)
> I think that's a misunderstanding. At the very least the typical use case
> is *not* using an existing transform function which is readily passed to
> accumulate -- instead, it's typically written as a simple expression (e.g.
> `total := total + v` in the PEP) which would require a lambda.

Plus, I don't know what kind of students you are teaching, but for me,
> whenever the solution requires a higher-order function (like accumulate),
> this implies a significant speed bump -- both when writing and when reading
> code. (Honestly, whenever I read code that uses itertools, I end up making
> a trip to StackOverflow :-).

Mostly mid-career professionals, of highly varying backgrounds. The
higher-order functions do require some cushioning getting into, but I have
some tricks I've learned over the years to make it go over pretty well.

On Fri, Jun 22, 2018 at 7:48 PM Steven D'Aprano <steve at pearwood.info> wrote:
> On Fri, Jun 22, 2018 at 10:59:43AM -0700, Michael Selik wrote:
>>> Of course they do -- they're less fluent at reading code. They don't
>>> have the experience to judge good code from bad.
>> On the other hand, an "expert" may be so steeped in a particular
>> subculture that [they] no longer can distinguish esoteric from intuitive.
>> Don't be so fast to reject the wisdom of the inexperienced.
> Nor should we cater to them excessively though. While the user is indeed
> king, it's also well known that most users when they are asking for a
> feature don't know what they want (same for kings, actually, that's why
> they have advisors :-).
>> The question we should be asking is, do we only add features to Python
>>> if they are easy for beginners? It's not that I especially want to add
>>> features which *aren't* easy for beginners, but Python isn't Scratch and
>>> "easy for beginners" should only be a peripheral concern.
>> On the contrary, I believe that "easy for beginners" should be a major
>> concern.  Ease of use has been and is a, or even the main reason for
>> Python's success. When some other language becomes a better teaching
>> language, it will eventually take over in business and science as well.
>> Right now, Python is Scratch for adults. That's a great thing. Given the
>> growth of the field, there are far more beginner programmers working today
>> than there ever have been experts.
> I'm sorry, but this offends me, and I don't believe it's true at all.
> Python is *not* a beginners language, and you are mixing ease of use and
> ease of learning. Python turns beginners into experts at an unprecedented
> rate, and that's the big difference with Scratch.

By saying "Scratch for adults" I meant that Python is a language that can
be adopted by beginners and rapidly make them professionals, not that it's
exclusively a beginner's language.

Also, Scratch and similar languages, like NetLogo, have some interesting
features that allow beginners to write some sophisticated parallelism. I
don't mean "beginner's language" in that it's overly simplistic, but that
it enables what would be complex in other languages.

I realize that my phrasing was likely to be misunderstood without knowing
the context that I teach working professionals who are asked to be
immediately productive at high-value tasks.
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