Long rant about Python in Education
iktomus.heyokis at gmail.com
Thu Aug 12 14:05:55 CEST 2010
This is in response to one of the pyWiki pages:
If there's a better place I could have posted this, please tell me
about it. I will be posting this elsewhere over the next few ideas,
because I feel it's my duty to spread this idea.
It's not grandiose, just Quixotic.
"We could really use some success stories of Python in education."
Right... Python was developed to be easily learnt by children. So
that's not a declarative sentence. It's an implied question.
Here's my answer. It took a while to write, but it's quite simple.
Problem: Python won't be easily learnt by my stepchild, I know for a
She loves her laptop, but she calls me a nerd whenever Linux gets
brought up at the dinner table.
I'm not bitter about this.
But I want you guys, especially the ones who are planning on having
kids, as well as the ones who already have them, to understand what
steps you can take to teach your kids Python.
I've basically outlined an 'algorithm' for it here. If you don't have
time to read a long, eccentric, rambling post, just 'read the lead'
Solution to problem:
1) Only let them see you using the terminal. Don't even use Windows in
2) Their first laptop should be installed with a nice, well-supported
3) Brush up on your Linux skills yourself.
The bottom line: teach them to do beautiful things with the terminal.
I believe Linux should be mastered by everyone who uses it.
And I believe Linux (not Python) is the way to teach children to
program. Especially intuitive ones. (In the Myers-Briggs scale.)
Why is this important?
Because the part of the world that most hates America right now is
full of intuitives. And if we want not to be blown off the face of the
earth in a few decades, we have to empower them in a very new way: we
have to teach them to enjoy programming, enjoy computers, and develop
their minds in a way that doesn't involve becoming 'Imams' who are
essentially the learned mafia bosses of terrorism.
I have mastered Classical Arabic. I once met a Pakistani and told him
I had done so. We were in the middle of a theological debate. In the
middle of his Islamic theology was, laughably enough, some Christian
theology that I have no idea how it got there. Orthodox Islam has no
concept of original sin, but he believed in it. That was a real
surprise for me.
Anyway, despite the fact that he'd only read translations of the
Qur'an, whereas I'd read the original, he was not impressed.
He said that Pakistan had many 'schools' for studying Arabic, and that
there was an incredible number of 'students' there.
These people aren't dumb, guys. They're just learning the wrong stuff.
We can't change the schools, but we don't need to.
Don't forget that Arabs and Central Asians both had education systems
based on Islam before western education came with the French and
British. The attempt to re-establish the primacy of that system of
education is what Islamic terrorism is all about.
It was based on memorizing/hearing the Qur'an, yes, then learning the
meanings of the words by reading it.
Actually, for an intuitive person, this is an excellent way to learn
any language (find a text, find a recording, memorize the recording,
intuit the meanings) and I have used it to learn Spanish, Chinese, and
How does this apply to Linux/Python?
Having access to the /usr/bin directory means having access to a whole
load of algorithms without even having to write them yourself!
Hasn't anyone but me thought of how great that would be for kids?
So, when you guys ban windows in the home and start breastfeeding your
kids terminals (I was using a DOS terminal correctly at age 9,
shouldn't be hard to teach them whippersnappers to use a -nix shell),
then you can bring in Python. But first, start writing Python to put
in their /usr/bin directories, so that they get comfortable with the
idea that Python can be both scripted and compiled, and that programs
are simply algorithms that get called using arguments.
Then teach them to write Python stuff they can put into /usr/bin
Important: ban windows entirely in the home. I cannot stress this
My stepdaughter is as good with computers as I was at her age, and
I've seen her play around with the settings on her laptop when she's
bored. Obviously, she wants to explore the machine sometimes, but
windows has trained her mind not to look for geeky solutions.
Windows has trained her to think of a computer as a magic machine, and
not as an algorithm machine.
Will the real Bill Gates please stand up.
When I was her 10, my stepfather banned me from playing DOOM unless I
could get it to work using the DOS command line.
I did not manage to replace the .dll file he had deleted, but I did
Will the real Bill Gates please stand up, please stand up, please
So, in conclusion:
DO people of the free-thinking world want a Mozart Python genius to
show off to the schools in Europe, Japan, Saudi (most importantly,
because it's a very rich country), the US, and all the other richer
countries... Do you?
I do. I'll see that kid as some sort of divine messiah, the way this
world is heading now.
The minute we can get 10-year-old Python geniuses in countries like
Pakistan, Algeria, and occupied Palestine, they will be superstars,
inspire the upper classes in their respective countries to teach their
kids programming, and our earth will no longer have anything to fear
from Islamic terrorism (using Linux, which is the John the Baptist of
this whole equation), because sooner or later, the terrorists who are
just bored teenagers will start writing good programs.
Also, my travels around the world have convinced me that Arabs will
someday be be the best programmers on the earth.
My stepdaughter has an Arab background, and her case convinces me
She could be a great computer programmer, if windows hadn't spoiled
Windows has spoiled them all, though, sadly...
They (Arabs) have the typology for it -- far more intuitives than we
white people do. But the way "globalization" has worked, turning the
whole world into an empire run by rich countries, of course there's a
revolt stirring in the poorer ones. It was bound to happen someday.
The fat cats who run these globalizing corporations mostly read the
Bible everyday and think the apocalypse is coming soon. It's their
prophecy guys, their book. Not ours.
The Linux shell is our Qur'an. Python is our New Testament. Will
somebody please write the Torah already?
Our new style of imperialism has also taught the Arabs and Central
Asians that, in order to succeed in life, you have to be
'sensate' (Jung/Myers-Briggs again here. Please read up if you don't
know what I'm talking about. The sensation function is what lets us do
math, learn logic, sketch, play music, etc.)
Want to cause an explosion of world peace? Want Python to change the
I know this sounds grandiose guys, but I've just given you guys the
I've traveled the world including the parts of the Middle East where
Bin Laden's doing most of his dirty work.
I've done quite a bit of everything, and this is the answer: teach
Python. But don't teach it first. Ban them from windows first.
Important: When they want something done, make them figure out how to
do it in the terminal.
They will try, if they are good, because I tried. And unfortunately,
since it was DOS, I did not have a whole slew of algorithms in the /
usr/bin directory waiting to be learnt and studied. Also, I did not
have a command history at my disposal. That's unfortunate, but it
doesn't stop me from trying to master Linux now.
A child who's mastered Linux at age 9 or 10 will be the first kid to
get on international TV for learning good Python. . . He will be our
But you can't teach them Python until they're familiar with the
workings of a computer. Don't even try.
It's like trying to teach algrebra without geometry first -- the one
was invented first, so it needs to be learned first. The fact that we
now teach algebra first in some schools just makes people hate math.
Ditto with teaching kids C/C++ who've never even touched linux.
It's a scary education system... And my 2 cents is that the
proliferation of western education creates hooligans, mafiosos, Imams
who support terrorism, and other classes of thugs in societies where
people are intuitive, like Pakistan or Egypt...
Let's face it, guys. Our world only works in the favor of the few, the
proud, the sensate.
Thankfully, computers taught me everything I've ever learned.
That's why I regard them in high esteem. My laptop is more than an
object -- it is almost divine.
What powers it? Electricity, which is almost divine.
And what is greater than electricity?
Ahh, the electromagnetic spectrum... the mystery of nature...
Signing off for now to fight more terrorists,
But not before a Coffee Break,
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