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Topic: teaching programming
Replies: 7   Last Post: Aug 27, 2000 10:14 PM

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abe kohen

Posts: 10
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: teaching programming
Posted: Aug 27, 2000 10:14 PM
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"Brian Harvey" <bh@anarres.CS.Berkeley.EDU> wrote in message
> "abe kohen" <> writes:
> >This isn't a language war, but an issue of do we teach what is practical,
> >do we teach ivory tower concepts. Those kids that will go on to MIT will
> >all the Scheme they need, but for the kids that don't go on to study
> >computer science, let's give them something useful.

> This disagreement *is* precisely what language wars are about. (The
> interesting ones, anyway; I can't work up much enthusiasm over arguments
> about whether N statements should have N or N-1 semicolons.) We choose
> a programming language based on our ideas about educational goals.
> (Except, of course, for those of us who don't get to choose because they
> have been assigned the A.P. CS course.)

So why is C++ the language of "choice" for AP CS?

[moderator's note: the above question is valid, but off-topic for this forum. I
invite those who wish to continue discussing AP Computer science to visit this
page: ]

> This disagreement is the same as the one about putting "practical"

> in math curricula in order to motivate the kids. Personally, the kids I
> know are motivated by fantasy and, in most cases, by intellectual

> much more than by narrow vocational training. (And by being allowed to
> drive cars -- maybe our programming classes should revolve around writing
> driving simulation games. :-)
> You and I agree that we should give kids something useful. We disagree
> about the definition of "useful"; I want to include powerful ideas that
> help kids think in new ways, rather than restrict the definition to the
> particular tools being used in industry this year.

For those of us teaching in inner city high schools, it would be a great
achievement to get our kids skilled in particular tools used in industry. If
I were teaching in a prep school, I might agree with your philosophy.


> And there's a third choice: There's a lot to be said, imho, for teaching
> kids first in a language such as Visual Basic that lets them throw
> together a snazzy graphical-user-interface application with a minimum of
> annoying detail to worry about. For most kids today that would probably
> be the most motivating choice -- and keeping the kid interested long

> to learn some ideas is the hard part, more important than the specific
> things the kid does or doesn't learn in the first exposure to programming.
> (But even so my aesthetic preference would be for Microworlds, which is a
> GUI/animation/multimedia version of Logo, over VB.)
> P.S. I agree that if the choice is C++ or Java it should be Java,
> mainly because of the garbage collection. But this strikes me as similar
> to the questions kids sometimes ask such as "which would you rather have
> cut off, an arm or a leg?"

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