[nSLUG] APL (was: On programming)

Peter Cordes peter at llama.nslug.ns.ca
Thu Oct 23 00:22:33 ADT 2003

On Wed, Oct 22, 2003 at 04:47:22PM -0300, Jason Kenney wrote:
> [... lots of stuff that I would have said myself ...]
> I think the "unstated goal" of Jr and Sr High math is closer to "teach 
> them to do math well enough to work cash at McDonald's." Since the math 
> system is even failing at that, I don't see how you can pretend it's trying to 
> prepare students for higher level calculus.

 I learned some basic calculus in grade 12 honours math at QEH in Halifax.
I finished high school in 1997, and I heard a while ago that they were
getting rid of streamed classes (i.e. they're putting the people who want to
work at McDonald in with the people who actually expect to do well on those
U Waterloo high school math exams).  Putting the people who are good at math
(by virtue of talent, hard work, or exposure to concepts at a young age)
together in one class lets them all learn more than they would if there were
people slowing down the pace of the class by failing to understand things
and making the teacher explain it at length.

> Even assuming it is working, "Calculus in first year university" applies to 
> more people then "programming in first year university". I don't see how 
> programming is more useful than calculus. There's no need to have everyone 
> working as a programmer. People who want to study plants can study plants. 
> If they have problems they need computers to help them solve, they can 
> hire programmers! 

 If everyone had a rudimentary understanding of the concept of feeding a
sequence of instructions to a computer, everyone could use more powerful
software (such as bash, and shell scripts), instead of doing everything by
hand one step at a time.  You don't need to be an experienced programmer to
define a macro, but some basic exposure to the concept is necessary before
people will even think of doing it.

> Schools now are teaching programming of sorts, and other computer skills 
> in school. At my old junior high, there was a drafting class, a 
> woodworking class, a sewing class and a cooking class. Now *all* of that 
> has been replaced by a class on using flash. I think that's horrible! 

 damn, that's dumb.

> I also doubt you'll be able to interest junior high students in 
> programming anymore than you can interest them in simple geometry, algebra or
> trigonometry.

 Junior high kids use computers all the time.  They don't usually do things
that could be done better by using trig or algebra.

> > But my opinions are uninportant; Im not a member of the cult of
> > university graduates.
> I agree there is a cult of sorts, but it's not clear you have to be 
> a member to succeed. It looks like the trade schools are a better a place to 
> be if you want to make money at the moment. I know people I graduated with 
> who are already licensed electricians, who have been working for a year, who 
> are probably making more money than I will if I go into the workforce when I 
> graduate.

 I went to university to get an education and learn more about stuff I was
interested in, not just to make money.  If I hadn't been interested in
traditional university topics (physics and computer science in my case), I
might not have gone at all.  I'm glad I did, because I learned things that
weren't taught in classes from my classmates.

 In my final year, I had a hard time motivating myself to work on my honours
thesis, since I felt like I'd already learned a lot of the stuff that I'd
wanted to learn, and the piece of paper was a lot less important to me than
what I'd gained personally.  I guess I'm part of the cult, but I give the
leader the finger when he's not looking.  (I'm not at all happy about the
whole get a piece of paper and climb the ladder system the western world
seems to run on.  I do have a job now (two years after graduation), but it's
one I like doing, and it's in the academic world, and only part time.  That
fits my priorities pretty well right now.  I can still plot the revolution
in my spare time. :)

#define X(x,y) x##y
Peter Cordes ;  e-mail: X(peter at cor , des.ca)

"The gods confound the man who first found out how to distinguish the hours!
 Confound him, too, who in this place set up a sundial, to cut and hack
 my day so wretchedly into small pieces!" -- Plautus, 200 BC

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