strangest systems I've sent email from
swiftgriggs at gmail.com
Mon Apr 25 14:05:38 CDT 2016
On Mon, 25 Apr 2016, Brian L. Stuart wrote:
> First, it's not pointing out which languages/techniques are popular that's
> narrow- minded and short-sighted.
I get that.
> It's the view that popularity and "commercial viability" is the primary
> consideration of value in education that's narrow-minded and
I know what you are getting at. It's basically an extension of the
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. The idea is somewhat that if students learn a
"good" language that'll teach them some meta-structure that will help them
later. Conversely, I've heard folks say that BASIC is the opposite since
the goto statement encourages bad-coding.
> Second, it's the perspective that's narrow-minded and short-sighted, not
> the person who expresses that perspective.
I get that too. Then, let me say that the *idea* that I was attacking
Pascal via Oberon rather than the Ivory Tower Academics is ridiculous.
> Many people fail to appreciate the distinction between training and
> education and as a result see the primary purpose of the university to
> be job preparation.
I completely understand the point you are making. I don't disagree.
Since most folks are too broke to afford it without taking on massive
debt, modern students might be forgiven if the distinction is lost on them
after they emerge with huge debt saddling them. Your point might be
logically valid, but ask a 23 year old if they care when they can't get a
job after giving the uni a quarter million bucks and 4-5 years of time
they spent being "educated" rather than "trained". The underlying point I
was making is that schools don't always "train" a person ... and that's
what I wanted and actually needed. There weren't any dedicated coding
schools I had access to back then. So, my option was to attend a local
school I could afford or nothing. Much to my chagrin all but one of the
profs had turned off their brains in 1986 and it was the 90's. The only
one of them who could actually teach *or* train me in anything was too
busy managing a ranch (seriously) to spend much time teaching. The rest of
them could barely grade my code.
> That so many people misunderstand the purpose of the university isn't a
> reflection on their individual intelligence or priorities. It's a
> reflection on the misplaced priorities of the secondary education system
> and of society as a whole.
True. I wonder though, do you believe that teaching a language with almost
zero commercial value is justified in the name of education because of
it's superior "meta" qualities ? They couldn't have done both since all
commercially successful languages are just so much trash ? IMHO, one can
teach using just about any Turing-complete language (and yes I've taught
programming classes myself, just not at a University). If the lang sucks
then you can point out what sucks about it and what not to do.
My first language was Logo. It'd have been a lot more helpful at the time
if it was something else. I tossed Logo aside the minute I got a compiler.
99% of the useful design patterns are ones I've learned on my own. As Will
Hunting says, I might have paid $1.50 in late fees to learn what they
taught me in school and been a lot better off, but bereft of the sheepskin
in the end. Then again, I went to two crappy schools that didn't
specialize in CS. I didn't graduate. I dropped out in my 4th year after
the frustration boiled over. So, maybe my personal perspective is just as
personal as those folks who went to MIT and fell in love with LISP, just
different (about $250,000 different, in fact).
> It's the same misplaced priorities that lead so many students to be so
> obsessed by the most meaningless part of the system: grades.
Grades aren't meaningless if you have a grant/scholarship to maintain or
need to get into graduate school. They aren't meaningless if you have to
pay tuition and ever class you have to re-take costs you $$$. They have
plenty of meaning to employers like IBM who might not hire you for that
entry-level position with a low GPA. They might not reflect some aspect of
education or learning you think is important, but there is more to going
to uni than just to get a mind expanding education.
I think folks who haven't been to school in 20+ years have a totally
warped view of what is happening nowadays. They are becoming
astronomically expensive and the value they impart is more and more
questionable. The debt trap they participate in is good enough reason for
many students to avoid them altogether and seriously consider "training"
style schools as alternative if you'd like to say, be able get a job via
passing a technical interview when you graduate.
I was coding at a job about six years ago and we wanted to hire a couple
of interns. So, we interviewed about 6 candidates. All our code was in C
or C++ and we found that none of the students from the local universities
had those skills. They were taught (some) Smalltalk and (mostly) Java.
Okay, fine, but the ones I interviewed had very weak critical thinking
skills, and that was the worst part since I could have grudglingly taken
the time to teach them C or C++. I could only attribute that to the
memorize-and-regurgitate culture of the schools, but maybe it was just bad
luck. We ended up hiring a 17 year old kid with GED who made the college
grads look downright pathetic. He was self-taught on cheap home computers.
He knew a few scripting languages we didn't care about but we taught him C
and C++ and he was doing commits about three weeks later. Later on we
hired one of the interns and had to let them go because he didn't
understand that he couldn't skip work like he skipped class and also
couldn't think or code his way out of a wet paper sack.
If I remain dubious of the value of "education" vs "training", just chalk
it up to my personal experience.
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