Why aren't we all speaking LISP now?

Paul Brian pbrian at demon.net
Wed May 9 12:14:54 EDT 2001

I suspect I am taking this a bit more off topic....

I agree with what Laura wrote, (my most involving course (in the late 80's)
was on History of Science! - a full course credit for 2 hours a week
explains why I took it, but I loved it.) however an interesting question
would be :

What should be taught as Computer Science?
When should it be taught?

My university days seemed to be based around teach a little theory,
supported by a low level language, then teach a bit more theory supported by
a new language that supports those constructs (From Basic to Pascal to
Fortran to C++, by way of SQL).
>From the Paul Graham article recently I got the feeling that unless you were
already using the "best" language (LISP), you could not understand what you
were missing (The Blub paradox?).
This seems to advocate that we should teach the "best" language first and
the theory could follow on from there.


If my ideal course was just teaching programming, when would it be necessary
to teach me theories, and which ones, so that I would progress? What about
macros and lexical closures and the other advantages of LISP. Are they
important because of theory or practise?

If the course was teaching just theory, when would it be necessary to let me
program something? What would that be? And in which language?

Does teaching bubblesort algorthims help when most high level languages have
highly efficent sorting routines available?
And if we never taught bubblesorts, how would we arrange it so that someone
who needed to write a better sorting routine could find out.

It would be interesting to hear from someone with experience of modern CS
teaching though. I could be ranting about nothing.

"Laura Creighton" <lac at cd.chalmers.se> wrote in message
news:mailman.989409253.7945.python-list at python.org...
> Datapoint:
> Most people in the late 1970s and early 1980s at the University
> of Toronto were not in the computer science program because they wanted
> to become academics, computer scientists, but rather because they wanted
> to become programmers.  They were in there for the same reason that
> people studied Dentistry, or Law -- they wanted a Profession, not to be

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