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Re: [seul-edu] Language to teach 10 year olds

Cees de Groot said:
> But still, I'm appalled at the point that many seem to be making here: a
> school is there to teach kids practical stuff so they can go out and earn
> money as quickly as possible.

In America, anyway, yes I think this is how it should be.  University
programs here are far too costly (even the state subsidized schools) and
most of what is learned is obsolete by the time a student graduates.  I
think the best hope for a young programmer or a young network administrator
is to give them practical skills at the high school level (and sure teach
them theory along the way, but using real world practical languages).  I do
think academic languages that are rarely used in the real world are a waste
of precious time that could have been used to teach a practical language.

> I think that a school needs to teach kids
> learning, not knowledge (apart from some basic knowledge).

This is something American schools are just plain bad at.  Our system is an
antiquated system based on the industrial revolution that is better geared
at cramming facts into kids heads, forcing them to memorize, and then
testing on those facts.  Class sizes are too large and daily class periods
are too short for the sort of individual attention needed for real learning.
I applaud many charter schools, private schools, homeschoolers and
unschoolers who have seen this fatal flaw and corrected it.  Public schools
don't get enough funding to handle the revolutionary changes needed to pull
this off so they simply need to do the best with what they've got.

Besides, even if the student does decide to rack up a lot of student loans
and go for the degree, they'll have a much easier time in school if they
already know C instead of Foozle.

> If they learn
> how to learn and how things work and relate, they'll get the knowledge
> together when they need it.

But no real experience that they can put on a resume.  Picture this, a
student is sitting in a job interview for a web programming position where
good knowledge of Perl, Tcl, or C would be enough to get the job.

Interviewer: "So tell me, which of the requisite languages do you have?"
Interviewee: "Perl & Tcl."
Interviewer: "Did you learn these in school?"
Interviewee: "No.  In school we learned Foodle, Topaz, and Hobo."
Interviewer: "I never heard of those."
Interviewee: "They are strictly academic languages.  They are used to teach
programming theory."
Interviewer: "So where did you ever learn Perl & Tcl?"
Interviewee: "On my own, at home."
Interviewer: "Oh look we're out of time.  It was nice meeting you.  We'll
give you a call in a few days."

> Teaching programming should be done in the
> same fashion - help them understand what a computer is about, what you
> can do with it, what sort of ways there are to tell a computer to do its
> job, etcetera. If they are fed the basis (hands-on, yes, so they don't
> get bored) they'll have the material on-board to expand their knowledge
> and the languages they understand all by themselves.

So again, why waste precious time with a language that has no practical
application, when you could teach the same theories using a well known

> But if you just want to make sure that they land an easy summer job, hey,
> tech them Visual Basic or Java.

Yes, Java would be very appropriate.  VB is rather narrow sighted as it only
runs on one platform and is about as portable as the great lakes.

> For me, the primary discussion should be what educational value a language
> posesses (I've made my point - Squeak Smalltalk). If this happens to be a
> popular industry language so that kids can have summer jobs with it -
> But that should *never* be an a-priori decision factor.

And why not?  What is the value of using Foozle over Java?  Good programming
practices and theory can be taught with any language.