hamilcar at tld.always.invalid
Fri Jul 9 08:52:58 CEST 2004
In article <mailman.151.1089350640.5135.python-list at python.org> (Thu, 08
Jul 2004 22:24:18 -0700), Paul Prescod wrote:
> I'm just trying to understand to what extent your position is yours and
> to what extent it is just common wisdom.
I think common wisdom would say VisualBasic and Java, for example, should
be the primary languages; when I first started school, FORTRAN, COBOL,
APL, and (enhanced) Dartmouth BASIC seemed big.
> Languages deemed "good for education" do not have a good history: BASIC,
> Pascal, etc. Why was Pascal good for teaching?
Pascal was big because it had a reasonably simple syntax, strong typing,
plain block structure, among other things. Did this make it the best
choice at the time? I don't think so. Was it good enough? Yes.
If I were making the decision between say FORTRAN, COBOL, APL, Pascal,
Modula, C++, Java, C#, VBA, or Python, I'd choose Python quickly. Adding
Smalltalk and Scheme would make me think harder. Perhaps it was you who
said it (or maybe I imagined it), but the availability of a work the
quality of Abelson and Sussman for Python and Smalltalk would make the
decision quite hard.
> But why are these more important concepts than (let's say) threads or
> network programming?
I don't see why network programming is particularly important for teaching
basic concepts. I do think parallel programming worthy of study but it's
not quite what I mean. I neglected to say so, but my comments were
directed toward introductory education.
> Because the latter are tainted by real-world usefulness?
I don't worry about a taint; the choice of language for education should
not be based on salability or popularity, but rather on its ability to
express the concepts to be demonstrated by writing programs.
> Therefore we should look for a language that is fun, easy to learn
> (relatively speaking!) and highly productive but not expect the language
> itself to deliver the CS education.
Fun isn't fundamental be neither should pain be inflicted gratuitously.
> Students will probably learn more from the library than from the
Perhaps or perhaps not, but...
> I'd go so far as to say that
> what you are looking for is a language that gets out of your way to the
> greatest extent. The language is primarily a notation...not a concept.
I'd go so far as to say that I agree completely with your point.
I'm a bit tired of the attitude of undergraduates, especially, who want to
be taught a language because they think it will get them a job.
Undergratuates as a rule don't know diddly-squat, if you'll excuse the
technical terminology. I'm seriously tired of the rah-rah,
jump-on-the-bandwagon, my-krew's-using-it rationale for language choice.
I'm glad this isn't your attitude and anyway it's a different rant.
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