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Programming Education Making A Comeback In Primary Schools

Unknown Lamer posted about 8 months ago | from the every-teenager-should-know-haskell dept.

Education 138

New submitter kyrsjo (2420192) writes "The Economist has an article on how information technology — the real stuff, not just button-pushing — is making its way back to schools across the world. As the article argues: 'Digital technology is now so ubiquitous that many think a rounded education requires a grounding in this subject just as much as in biology, chemistry or physics.' In today's society, teaching computer science in schools is absolutely necessary, and that means getting a real understanding of computers and how they work. That requires working with algorithms and programming, not just learning which buttons to push in the program that the school happened to use."

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Punch Cards! (-1, Offtopic)

phrostie (121428) | about 8 months ago | (#46864921)

Woooooooooooooo Hoooooooooooooo!

Primary school might be too late (4, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 months ago | (#46864931)

Children are growing up with tablets now. By the time they get to school they will have become so used to simplistic touchscreen interfaces that teachers might find it challenging to turn their minds to the internals of the computers they use. Philip J. Guo's The Two Cultures of Computing [pgbovine.net] essay (posted to Reddit under the amusing title "How Ya Gonna Get 'Em Down on UNIX After They've Seen Spotify?") is obviously the result of clumsy and unprepared teachers, but even better-trained educators might face the same challenge.

I wonder if teaching CS basics might not be better with pen-and-paper exercises in the beginning, where students are less likely to compare what they are doing to the interfaces they are used to. I loved working with Friedman's The Little Schemer [amazon.com] , which I discovered well into adulthood, that teaches one the Lisp philosophy of recursion without every needing to sit in front of a computer. Perhaps children would like such an approach as well, and then by the time you present them with e.g. an actual command line they've already internalized that kind of thinking.

Re:Primary school might be too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865067)

You know what a rounded education also requires? It requires that your school actually be able to provide you with a good education. Public schools and most private schools (or charter schools) are all garbage, so that seems rather unlikely.

Re: Primary school might be too late (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865079)

They have tablets.
Being able to write and run your code makes it fun.
The new hello world for the touch enabled is to get some widgets on screen, and write some event handlers that confirm it's working.

Re: Primary school might be too late (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865139)

They have tablets.

Being able to write and run your code makes it fun.

Forget tablets... give them LEGO Mindstorms and Raspberry Pis!

Re: Primary school might be too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865597)

We should be giving kids handguns, especially the scrawny ones.

That would solve the bullying problem quickly and allow them to get back to learning, instead of being pushed into lockers all day.

Re: Primary school might be too late (0)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46865635)

If you want to solve bullying, make schools liable for it instead of giving them a good reason to be an accomplice by looking away because it's easier to keep a bully complacent when he has a punching bag.

Adults only (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#46865197)

They have tablets.
Being able to write and run your code makes it fun.

If the tablets are iPad brand, you're not really allowed to do so until age 18. The last time I checked, only adults, businesses, and postsecondary institutions (that's college, not K-12) could join the iOS Developer Program.

Re: Adults only (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865301)

It's now 13.

Re:Adults only (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 8 months ago | (#46865601)

If the tablets are iPad brand, you're not really allowed to do so until age 18. The last time I checked, only adults, businesses, and postsecondary institutions (that's college, not K-12) could join the iOS Developer Program.

Most kids have parents or some other adult in their life. My 15 year old daughter uses my developer account. But writing apps in Obj-C for the iPad isn't for beginners. Elementary school kids should start out with something like Scratch, then move on to something like Python or JavaScript, and then learn C++/Java in high school (assuming they are still interested). I coach an after school robotics class for 4th-6th graders. We use Scratch to program Mindstorms and Raspberries and the kids are doing well and seem to enjoy it.

Scratch requires Flash (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#46867027)

Most kids have parents or some other adult in their life.

Provided the parent lets the child use the parent's computer.

Elementary school kids should start out with something like Scratch

"Oh Noes! Scratch project cannot display. Flash player is disabled, missing, or less than version 10.2." Flash Player isn't available for tablets.

Re:Primary school might be too late (2)

noelhenson (691861) | about 8 months ago | (#46865115)

Everyone is missing the point on how to educate a child. Do any of these techniques take into account what the children's brains are ready for at a particular age? You know, things like fine motor skill development, centerline crossing, emotional development, movement. Teaching reading too early can affect math and writing skills. The US is doing this all the wrong way. And don't even get me started on standardized testing.Teaching programming too early is such a bad thing to do to their brains. It's about the right education for what's right for any particular child at their own current state of development according to their own particular skills, needs and abilities; at that particular time in their life. We don't need programming machines; we need well-rounded humans.

Just my take on all this. And you should see the school my daughter attends, the Austin Waldorf School. Please visit if you are in the neighborhood.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#46865167)

You don't necessarily mean that an introduction to programming should be saved for around age 18, do you?

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46865643)

Personally, I think it should not be saved for an age but rather for someone who's actually interested.

Re:Primary school might be too late (2)

klik (93694) | about 8 months ago | (#46866575)

What if they are interested at an early age? My son is 5, and after seeing me messing about with Logo, wanted to know how to play the 'turtle game'. Within a day he was creating repeated structures and can now draw better with logo than he can with pencil and paper ( not that he is bad at that ).

It helped him develop his maths, reading and rational thinking skills.

Offer them the opportunity at any age - if they show an interest, support it. if they don't, then show them something else new, and see if it interests them.

Klik

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 8 months ago | (#46865169)

Programming is complex and requires particular logic thinking which children most certainly are very much not biologically equal. This will drive an even greater intelligence wedge into the class room and this will make life harder to those who already get the rough end of the wedgy.

Perhaps before schools push down the programming line the might considering creating a different education path within the school with a focus on computer education for those students who are suited for it. Failure to make this adjustment will likely lead to classrooms full of failures making life difficult for the other students who cruise through the work.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 8 months ago | (#46865343)

umm, how old are you? A lot of us grew up with programming in basic, logo, pascal in grade school on apples and commodores.

None of what you are scared about ever happened. In fact, i don't recall anybody having any problem with logo at all, even the 'jocks'(grade 3 afterall).

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 8 months ago | (#46865421)

I think we should be very careful about dummying down curriculum based on preconceptions of what the average child is NOT capable of. A prescriptive approach would be to identify real world industry mathematics and simplify it for 10 year olds.

My lasting memories of primary school mathematics were

(a) rote-learning the 12-times table. Why stop at twelve? The metric system had replaced feet and inches in my country before I was born. A useful upgrade would be extending that to 16, so that a generation of students can easily master hexadecimal.

(b) learning angles, areas and volumes with degrees. Why does a circle have 360 degrees? because Babylonians used base 60. But for calculating circumference, you need to multiply the diameter by a magic fraction of 22/7. When I learnt trig much later, I was amazed by the simplicity of the unit circle and how grade 3 mathematics seemed so confusing as an 8yo by comparison. Radians are a far more intuitive concept. From there, polar coordinates aren't that much of a leap.

You mention logic - the foundations of mathematical logic, i.e. de morgan's laws could be taught in several afternoons using brightly coloured Venn Diagrams.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 8 months ago | (#46865631)

Just a note. For your item a), that's actually necessary (up to 10 at least). You have to be able to mutiply single digits without thinking, or else you can't really do anything involving any sort of multiplication or division.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 8 months ago | (#46865801)

It is not about dummying down anything it is about creating a separate education channel for suitable students so that they can advance their computer learning rather than be held back by the average and below average who are also still entitled to an education. So a computer sciences education stream from primary school onto university.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | about 8 months ago | (#46866185)

(b) learning angles, areas and volumes with degrees.

How did you learn areas and volumes in terms of degrees?

Radians are a far more intuitive concept.

Radians are more intuitive with respect to some things, but degrees are better for discussing angles. 37 degrees is easier than its equivalent in radians,

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about 8 months ago | (#46866441)

Radians are more intuitive with respect to some things, but degrees are better for discussing angles. 37 degrees is easier than its equivalent in radians,

That's just a familiarity bias. There is nothing easier about 37 degrees than 646 milliradians. They're both just numbers.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | about 8 months ago | (#46866803)

Should I do a 3.14159 from my previous statement?

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about 8 months ago | (#46866897)

Or you could do an about-face and skip the numbers in idioms altogether.

Complaining that old idioms won't work anymore is a stupid reason to keep unnecessarily complex conceptual constructs in use.

Re:Primary school might be too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865289)

I was reading on my own after 3 and programming small programs at 4 1/2. (TI 99/4A BASIC)

When I was 6, I wrote my first game. A sort of choose-your-own-adventure style game with hard-coded choices. At 10 I wrote a perfect tic-tac-toe, in that it always chose the optimal choice. I worked out the tables for how that would work instead of paying attention in science class.

Despite my early language skills and distractions during my classes, I am very strong in the sciences.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 8 months ago | (#46865349)

Perhaps your lack of social skills and disjointed narrative rather prove his point?

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865357)

When I was a kid, there used to be a magazine called Family Computing that included a section of programs one could type in and they would do things... some made sounds, some were small games, etc. 321 Contact's magazine also had little programs in their magazine. My mom and I used to take turns typing in the programs, fixing our errors, and felt a pretty good sense of accomplishment when they'd finally run. The first thing I coded from scratch was a strobe light because the strobe light room was my favorite thing at Chuck-E-Cheese. It was awesome. This was all at around 7-8 years old. By the time I discovered "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, I started writing my own on my trusty C64 and having it jump around to different text blobs based on the the reader's choice.

So many environmental variables come in to play that affect academics. Teaching "programming" sounds a lot scarier than it really is when you scale it down to simple things. It's all about method. I think a shift from the approach of teaching subjects to teaching how to learn... how to discern good knowledge from the multitude of sources in all the noise of targeted this and that we're heading towards... That's going to be valuable.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about 8 months ago | (#46866009)

Sure, let's have a psychologist analyze each child every 6 months to decide what he's most ready to learn at this stage of his emotional development and have a teacher design a customized course just for that child.

Sounds like an efficient use of resources, and a good way to show the child how society revolves on his every whim.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

smallfries (601545) | about 8 months ago | (#46866095)

Efficiency is the ratio of useful output to wasted effort. Are you really in a position to evaluate what kind of society that would produce and how their global output would compare to our current system?

It may sound expensive in comparison to our current education system, but expense is a different issue to efficiency. What kind of society would result from every individual being raised to their own personal maximum potential. I suspect that the productivity of such a society would be higher than our own, and surprised that you feel capable of calculating the trade-off that implies between allocation of resources into education and increased productivity across the board.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about 8 months ago | (#46866189)

Are you really in a position to evaluate what kind of society that would produce and how their global output would compare to our current system?

Yes.
It's called studying economy.

surprised that you feel capable of calculating the trade-off that implies between allocation of resources into education and increased productivity across the board

I'm personally more surprised that you are seriously considering the possibility that the system you are suggesting is viable. There are so many obvious problems with wanting that for every children there be multiple people dedicated to teaching him in a custom way that it's not even funny. And that's even without considering the bad effects of not exposing the child to his peers and learning to work as a group.
This way of raising children is only possible for people who have significantly larger amounts of money than other people, and therefore it cannot be applied to the entire population.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

gordo3000 (785698) | about 8 months ago | (#46867021)

so you have the one size fits all method to make sure all children are learning exact what they need to at every stage? You should write an extension to the common core.

Everyone develops different skills at very different paces. I was, even though very active, very slow at developing any physical skills (eye-hand coordination, etc) but years ahead at math. If you think you have the solution to everyone's learning strategy, you are wrong.

Bah. (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | about 8 months ago | (#46865143)

Way before I learned any real programming (well, maybe I had a little Basic at that point), I had software that was puzzles with logic gates (you have some number of inputs w/ different patterns on the left wall, connect up the logic gates to make the desired output on the right).

Today's modern equivalent is SpaceChem. And we've had plenty of games that teach you to break down problems into smaller parts ... The Incredible Machine, Lemmings, etc.

Maybe it doesn't teach you how to write a faster sort routine... but c'mon, these days most programmers have never seen a line of assembly, much less written one. They get by in high level languages like Ruby and Python, where they don't even have to worry about garbage collection or pointer addition.

You get the kids interested by giving them tools to make something that they can play with ... it could be some drag & drop framework, or even something like Minecraft.
Some are going to be satisfied with that ... others are going to have some task they can't do in the tools, and will have to delve deeper. ...

Of course, my only concern with this approach is that you risk having some people take a profession for granted -- the "I made a webpage for my club in highschool using GeoCities... why do we need to hire a professional to make out website?" type people.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 8 months ago | (#46865533)

Actually, it will matter very little, as most people (85-90% or so) cannot learn to program well, no matter what. Sure, it is nice to give the few that can some pointers early on as to what they may like doing later, but the bright ones will look at salaries, place in corporate hierarchy and social prestige and most will stay away from a CS career as a consequence. The few good ones that remain will have a passion for CS and would have found that without school as well.

What this may achieve though is to increase the large number of folks in CS that have no business being there, with low or negative productivity and keeping salaries and employment opportunities for the ones that are good down. If you do not believe me regarding the skill level of most "programmers", then read this: http://blog.codinghorror.com/t... [codinghorror.com]

So IMO, this is a really terrible, terrible idea.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 8 months ago | (#46865637)

Universal education in programming, however, may reduce the number of PHBs who say "It's just programming. How hard can it be?"

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 8 months ago | (#46865705)

Well, yes. If that would come out of it, it would be worthwhile just for that.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 8 months ago | (#46865581)

Children are growing up with tablets now. By the time they get to school they will have become so used to simplistic touchscreen interfaces that teachers might find it challenging to turn their minds to the internals of the computers they use.

Strange words coming from a human. Unlike most intelligent species who first ponder the questions "Who am I? Who are all of you? Who made this happen?" [the answers, of course, being: "nobody in particular"], human children first go through a "why" phase, followed by a "how" phase.

No one can make a drill so easy to use that a child will not disassemble it to discover how it works. When exposed to the amazing programs operating upon their "simplistic touchscreen interfaces" some children will ask ask "Oh, wow. How do they do that?". The children with the drive to discover how invariably become hackers, scientists, physicists, engineers, mathematicians, and students learned of other rationally minded professions.

Not all children will want to learn programming to the degree that is required to create new applications. However, a certain degree of programming is required to apply mathematics to the world around us. Thus you have nothing to fear, human, the children will eventually be taught programming as a means to facilitate learning of mathematics, just as graphing calculators have been used to facilitate the learning of geometry.

#1 question most intelligent students of tool using species will ask when you try to give them a new tool, either mental or otherwise, "When am I ever going to use this in real life?" That is what kids ask when you try to teach them algebra. If your answer is anything other than, "Right now", then you will become extinct, and the apes will rule the stars if the machines don't beat them to it.

Programming is a shallow trick ... (1)

golodh (893453) | about 8 months ago | (#46865733)

There is nothing "magical" or even "special" about being able to code.It's usually a very shallow trick based on being able to decompose a problem into smaller (easier) ones, and then putting the solution to the smaller problems together to solve the original problem.

Children would be much better served by teaching them concentration, a systematic approach to problem-solving, a good command of language (natural language) and teaching them how to solve problems that require a focused effort or even a team effort.

And yes, programming can be so much fun that you might succeed in getting children so absorbed in the problem at hand that they actually focus and make an effort. But I see it as a means. not an end.

Teaching children about programming in secondary school is plenty good enough, provided they aren't semi-illiterates (as is so often the case), can actually formulate their thoughts in a way that makes sense (instead of the usual incoherent rambling), and know what it means to make an effort.

Re:Primary school might be too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865789)

"How Ya Gonna Get 'Em Down on UNIX After They've Seen Spotify?"

There has always been a division between those who use and those who seek to understand. Some examples:

Physics: you have physicists and baseball players.
Biology: you have biologists and gardeners.
Chemistry: you have chemists and chefs.
Mathematics: you have mathematicians and accountants.

We educate our children broadly in all these areas and allow them to find their own paths. Some will rise to the challenge and become insightful scientists. Some won't, but will be supremely skilled at wielding the tools they have been provided. This is natural and unthreatening. Computer Science should be no different.

Good point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46866137)

I think even if that weren't the case, it would be a mistake to introduce computer based education at that age. It would lead them to the internet and the porn and the madness.

Elementary logic and discrete Math, maybe a few important but simple algorithms, but that's it. That's all they need at that age. A lot of these wonder prodigy programming kids may seem like the business now, but my bet is they won't do anything substantive, as they're too indoctrinated by the languages they program and are limited by the rules of the type checkers also. No kid should be near a statically typed language and really no adult should be near a dynamically typed one.

Re:Primary school might be too late (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 8 months ago | (#46866849)

Children are growing up with tablets now. By the time they get to school they will have become so used to simplistic touchscreen interfaces that teachers might find it challenging to turn their minds to the internals of the computers they use.

Isn't that the eternal challenge of teaching computing anyways? We have been churning CS grads who cannot understand the idea of an array of functions to pointers, or understand why assembly language programming require us to move values to registers before carrying ops on them.

The problem might look different now than before due to the different type of interfaces or gadgets. But the core of the problem remains the same. It is not the nature of interfaces and gadgets, but the nexus where competent teaching, curricula and interested students meet.

Volunteering is the best way to make a difference! (1)

paradochs (1268274) | about 8 months ago | (#46864939)

TEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools) is a grassroots employee driven program that recruits, mentors, and places high tech professionals who are passionate about digital literacy and computer science education into high school classes as part-time teachers in a team teaching model where the school district is unable to meet their students’ computer science (CS) needs on its own. TEALS works with committed partner schools and classroom teachers to eventually hand off the CS courses to the classroom teachers. The school will then be able to maintain and grow a sustainable CS program on their own. http://www.tealsk12.org/ [tealsk12.org]

Meta-programming first? (2)

eyepeepackets (33477) | about 8 months ago | (#46864973)

How about some critical thinking skills to go along with that programming class? They compliment each other and both can have lasting effects on young minds.

Re:Meta-programming first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865019)

"complement". Think about it critically, what would "compliment" mean here?

Re:Meta-programming first? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865293)

> Think about it critically, what would "compliment" mean here?

It means to make an edifying comment, such as "that grammar Nazi uniform looks good on you."

Re:Meta-programming first? (1)

eyepeepackets (33477) | about 8 months ago | (#46865561)

Oh look, a homophone!

Thanks grammar Nazi!

Re:Meta-programming first? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 8 months ago | (#46865909)

I'm not a homophone! Some of my best friends sound the same!

Re:Meta-programming first? (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about 8 months ago | (#46866053)

Depending on your English dialect, compliment and complement are not homophones.

Re:Meta-programming first? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46865645)

You expect critical thinking to be taught in a conformity factory?

Article Has No Specifics (0)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 8 months ago | (#46864993)

Very vague. Mentions 10 years olds. Doesn't say any specifics, don't say programming language or what they did.

Since non-programmer wrote article, sounds like some horseshit "feel good" newspaper column.

As far as I could tell by reading TFA ...

Re:Article Has No Specifics (1)

Ingcuervo (1349561) | about 8 months ago | (#46865879)

i truly think that there is no need to learn a programming language in highschool its like teaching how to use maxwell equations in there, basically the ones non interested will learn nothing and will hate it, and the ones interested will feel frustrated because they dont have the foundations for that, i actually think that its more important to teach whats an algorithm, why are those important and how to solve problems. programming languages are completely useless if you are not interested in creating an app by yourself

Just don't make programming classes mandatory (2)

Calibax (151875) | about 8 months ago | (#46864995)

Understanding computers in one thing. Understanding how to program them is something else entirely.

My 17 month old understands my iPad, sort of, and has done for a few months. She can unlock the device, page through it to find the couple of apps she likes, fire them up and interact with them. On my laptop she knows ho to use the trackpad and left-click on buttons. I have no idea where she will be computer-wise by the time she's in first grade, but one thing seems sure, she will know how to use one.

But programming is not necessary to understand how to use a computer, no more than being able to repair your car's brakes is necessary to use a car. In some fairly rare circumstances extremely useful, but not something that NEEDS to be learned to be a good driver - mostly it's sufficient to know how to use the brakes.

By all means, offer programming classes, but don't require people to take them to graduate. Attempting to learn programming if your mind doesn't work the right way (detail oriented, highly logical) would be torture indeed. Understanding how to use them should be sufficient for most people.

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 8 months ago | (#46865055)

By all means, offer programming classes, but don't require people to take them to graduate. Attempting to learn programming if your mind doesn't work the right way (detail oriented, highly logical) would be torture indeed. Understanding how to use them should be sufficient for most people.

The same arguments could be said about physics, chemistry, mathematics, etc.

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (1)

BiIl_the_Engineer (3618863) | about 8 months ago | (#46865081)

Indeed, those arguments could be applied to those subjects. Your point?

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (4, Insightful)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 8 months ago | (#46865137)

My point is that those subjects, which 99% of people never use again in their adult life, are mandatory. And yet computers, which most of us use daily since there's now microcontrollers everywhere, are still magical boxes for most people.

If more people understood basic things like binary, base 2 vs base 10, basic CPU processing, memory, bandwidth, trojans vs viruses, we would have a lot less problems with stupid things like "Western Digital sold me a smaller hard drive than advertised" or "I'm going to upload this 30 megabytes, 12 megapixel photo to use as my avatar picture for that forum" or the ever-popular "I entered my account password so I could watch porn".

Teaching real-world examples would be good, such as "Netflix stopped working, where is the problem coming from? My playback device? My wi-fi router? My ISP modem? My ISP? Netflix?"

The answer to the last problem is, of course, "your iTunes account didn't have enough funds to renew your Netflix subscription".

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (2)

BiIl_the_Engineer (3618863) | about 8 months ago | (#46865179)

My point is that those subjects, which 99% of people never use again in their adult life, are mandatory.

Perhaps they shouldn't be.

If more people understood basic things like binary, base 2 vs base 10, basic CPU processing, memory, bandwidth, trojans vs viruses, we would have a lot less problems with stupid things like "Western Digital sold me a smaller hard drive than advertised" or "I'm going to upload this 30 megabytes, 12 megapixel photo to use as my avatar picture for that forum" or the ever-popular "I entered my account password so I could watch porn".

That's only if most people are capable of understanding how to be even decent programmers. I doubt they are, as they don't seem to be capable of understanding math (they can memorize equations and patterns, but that's about it). But for the more basic things you mentioned? Probably.

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#46865245)

Are you willing to risk imprisonment over your opinion that they shouldn't be?

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (1)

BiIl_the_Engineer (3618863) | about 8 months ago | (#46865269)

What? Imprisonment? For the homeschooling thing? My state (I live in the US) is one of the most permissive states when it comes to that.

Moving to such a state (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#46865323)

Congratulations. May I ask: How did you happen upon the money to move to such a permissive state? And do you recommend that step for most families with children? What if anything do you recommend for people who happen not to be U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents?

Re:Moving to such a state (1)

BiIl_the_Engineer (3618863) | about 8 months ago | (#46865445)

I lived in my state since the beginning. I'm not telling people to move, but if they do plan on moving to another state or country, that's just another factor that should be considered before picking a place to move to. If you can't move, all you can do is try to supplement your child's education by homeschooling them out of school, and putting pressure on the schools to improve as much as possible (which should be done anyway).

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (1)

Calibax (151875) | about 8 months ago | (#46865191)

The items you mention are all extremely useful when using a computer and should be taught in schools.

Speaking generally, programmers need to be proficient users but it is a separate skill that requires a substantially greater amount of energy to acquire.

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865877)

Here's an idea...

k-2, let kids be kids.
3-5, 30 minute technology courses a few times a week.
6-8, 45 minute technology courses a few times a week
9-12, incorporate some sort of technology course, with a minimum required as an attempt. In other words, must attend, must try, but not required for graduation.

By technology course, I simply mean a course that goes from as small as familiarity, to keyboard, to programming. Logic in scripting/coding would be nice, even if one fails it. If anything, these classes should be pass/fail.

Another idea...
how about high school diplomas with focuses?
General high school diploma (bare minimum)
Addons, such as... Math, Science, Technology, and History.
Math might require up to multivariable calculus and passing a standardized test to get the focus listed on a h.s. diploma.
Science might require up to whatever occurs after physics and a standardized test.
Technology, not sure there.
History, I would say certain subjects and being able to pass a standardized test to make sure one is component.
All of these required classes in the focus should require a B average.

TECHNOLOGY is not a replacement for good teaching.
EDUCATION should not be a means to simply get a job. We should be focusing on having well-rounded people who can make informed decisions, rather than just being a cog in a capitalist world.

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865897)

Everything you moan about can be applied to any other profession. There's no need to take a car to mechanic, they're trivial to understand. No need to call in an electrician or plumber, easiest thing in the world to do. Heck, you hardly need to seek medical advice if you bother to learn a little medicine. Accountant for year end returns? Don't be silly, that's just adding a few numbers together. Need I go on?

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (1)

kyrsjo (2420192) | about 8 months ago | (#46866465)

But in all those cases, having some clue of how things work is quite useful, even if you don't fix it yourself.

Car won't stop when pushing the breaks? Probably something wrong with the breaks or the hydraulics. Emergency break flooping around? Probably something with the cable. Oil light came on? Stop the car and switch of the engine.

No light in a room? Check the fuse. Fuse burns out immediately? Disconnect the slighty burnt-looking appliance on that circuit. Still tripping fuse? Time to call an electrician.

Suddenly unaware of how to do basic tasks, like reading or opening a door? Time to go to the hospital. Friend complaining about stiff neck and red dots on the skin which doesn't go a way with pressure? Might be meningitis, which is very dangerous. Hospital. No energy, weighing over 100 kg, can't walk up a stair? Don't live of coca-cola and McDonalds, get a better diet (and know what that means) and start using your legs.

Computer not producing the results you need? Did you give it the input data it needs to produce that result?
Can't connect to Facebook? Can you connect to anything else? Can you get to that web page through your tablet, which is connected to the same network?

Having the tools to think logically about something, even if you're not an expert, is very useful.

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46866413)

There are very few occupations left where having a basic understanding of programming is not useful. Carpenters use CNC routers, car mechanics need to work with electronic diagnostics systems, even facility maintenance people need to get around programmable controls for HVAC and nowadays even light switches.

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (1)

Xest (935314) | about 8 months ago | (#46866785)

What? 99% of people never use mathematics in their adult life?

How do people manage their money? how do people buy things? how do people do DIY? how do people do their tax returns? how do people understand who won the latest election?

I'm pretty sure that near enough 100% of people use mathematics in their adult life.

FWIW pretty much all your arguments can also be applied to people who use cars. Do you also advocate that everyone should become a fully qualified auto-mechanic by the time they leave school? Similarly, we can make the same argument about training everyone to be a doctor, a plumber, a builder, a lawyer, and so on.

Fact is there isn't enough time to teach everyone everything, we learn what we can or what we want and we pay others who have learnt the rest to do the rest so we can focus on what we're interested in and/or skilled at.

Regulators will want evidence (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#46865175)

It is the status quo that education regulators in the several states have deemed chemistry and physics required subjects in high school. Can you show evidence that this requirement is a poor idea?

Re:Regulators will want evidence (2)

BiIl_the_Engineer (3618863) | about 8 months ago | (#46865189)

Besides the fact that all of these courses are just a waste of time, since schools only teach to the test and have students memorize information and patterns? Personally, dropping out and self-educating would have been a better use of my time, or homeschooling.

Homeschooling is a crime (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#46865233)

Can you show evidence that this [high school STEM] requirement is a poor idea?

Besides the fact that all of these courses are just a waste of time, since schools only teach to the test and have students memorize information and patterns?

Again, lawmakers are going to want you to show evidence that "all of these courses are just a waste of time", that "schools only teach to the test", and that "schools [...] have students memorize information and patterns". Without such evidence, you'll never get the law changed.

Personally, dropping out and self-educating would have been a better use of my time, or homeschooling.

In Cuba, El Salvador, Greenland, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, the Republic of Korea, Albania, Andorra, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia, and Sweden, homeschooling is a crime.

Re:Homeschooling is a crime (1)

BiIl_the_Engineer (3618863) | about 8 months ago | (#46865265)

Again, lawmakers are going to want you to show evidence that "all of these courses are just a waste of time", that "schools only teach to the test", and that "schools [...] have students memorize information and patterns". Without such evidence, you'll never get the law changed.

I thought people would be aware of these well-known problems. You need only look at our crappy standardized tests.

In Cuba, El Salvador, Greenland, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, the Republic of Korea, Albania, Andorra, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia, and Sweden, homeschooling is a crime.

That's quite a shame. Furthermore, some US states have made it extremely difficult to homeschool your children. A select few are extremely permissive to the point of basically requiring nothing and checking up on nothing, but they're a vast minority.

Re:Homeschooling is a crime (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#46865311)

I thought people would be aware of these well-known problems.

Apparently, education regulators aren't, or current law wouldn't be current law anymore.

Re:Homeschooling is a crime (1)

Typical Slashdotter (2848579) | about 8 months ago | (#46865583)

Is that a complete list of countries where homeschooling is a crime? If so, it's not a very big list.

For comparison, Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] lists the following counties where alcohol is illegal: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, India (some parts), Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Qatar, United Arab Emirates. Not quite as many, but within a factor of two.

Re:Homeschooling is a crime (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#46866933)

Is that a complete list of countries where homeschooling is a crime? If so, it's not a very big list.

That list is based on a list at Wikipedia and doesn't include countries where it's available only as a hardship exception or otherwise far more tightly regulated than in BiIl_the_Engineer's home state.

Re:Regulators will want evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865651)

School is more than just trying to optimize a STEM education. It's about learning to socialize, learning to negotiate conflict, learning to stand up for yourself, learning that life isn't fair, and a hundred other critical 'intangibles' that result in a rounded human being. Also a more resilient human being.

I worry that excessive home schooling will result in people who can ace tests, but essentially develop in a bubble. Because they have a family that can presumably afford to have a parent at home, they assume everyone is born as lucky as they are. Then they read Ayn Rand, and stay stuck in adolescence forever:)

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (3, Interesting)

narcc (412956) | about 8 months ago | (#46865225)

By all means, offer programming classes, but don't require people to take them to graduate. Attempting to learn programming if your mind doesn't work the right way (detail oriented, highly logical) would be torture indeed. Understanding how to use them should be sufficient for most people.

Yuck. More "programming requires a special mind" nonsense.

The cold hard truth is that programming is incredibly easy. Why, it's so easy that children can and do teach themselves. Remember the 80's? You couldn't through a rock without hitting a kid who wrote their own simple games for their micro.

Yes, anyone without a significant cognitive impairment can learn to write computer programs. That particular skill does not, in any way, make you special and unique. You're going to need to find something else to maintain your fragile ego.

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865271)

Oh, yeah, sure; teaching people to make simple programs is doable. Now, being a good programmer is something else entirely, and requires something more than the "monkey see, monkey do" mindset that most people have.

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 8 months ago | (#46865981)

Who ever said the goal was to teach people to be good programmers? The goal of English is not to teach children to be novelists. Have you ever watched a non-prgrammer use MS Office and cringed at the fact that they're manually repeating things that could be recorded as a macro or written in a couple of lines of VBA? The point of teaching programming is to make people realise that these complex machines that they're using can be instructed to do repetitive tasks for them. This is useful far beyond working as a full-time programmer.

Whenever I read this kind of counter-argument, I'm reminded of the people who, a hundred or so years ago, argued that there was no point in teaching most people to write because most of them weren't going to be scribes.

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865709)

I'm glad you posted this. There's just something so desperate about the attitude certain programmers have towards other fields. As if every other human endeavour just a case of applied computer science. "Oh, I *know* I could be a great physicist / mechanic / musician / artist, but programming requires a 'special' mind - which gives me an excuse for being an adult obsessed with toy collections and pony cartoons."

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865963)

Oh fuck off.

A lot of the skills that a surgeon, a doctor, or a lawyer need are common. Others aren't. The average X is not particularly good for these fields, but a real X is stellar.

Is programming any different?

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46866981)

By all means, offer programming classes, but don't require people to take them to graduate. Attempting to learn programming if your mind doesn't work the right way (detail oriented, highly logical) would be torture indeed. Understanding how to use them should be sufficient for most people.

Yuck. More "programming requires a special mind" nonsense.

The cold hard truth is that programming is incredibly easy. Why, it's so easy that children can and do teach themselves. Remember the 80's? You couldn't through a rock without hitting a kid who wrote their own simple games for their micro.

How many children have you met that grasped mathematical concepts on their first try? How many have you met that were able to pick up spoken grammar quickly?

Real computer science is applied mathematics, something that requires higher math in order to be able to do. Programming can be "simple", in the way that everyone starts with "Hello World", or the way that you can use Task Scheduler (Windows) to defragment your drive at odd times. The truth is once you start working with variables in programming, understanding of algebraic concepts is incredibly useful. When was the last time you programmed something without variables?

What needs to happen is what other people are chiming in on. It's not "Programming" that needs to be learned, nor is it "Computer Science", it's essential problem solving skills and familiarity with the structure of a computer. We need to go far beyond the "Blue E is for internets" mentality and into the "I've installed my own OS and partitioned my hard drive so I don't lose all my data next time Windows tanks." If the kid wants to learn how to make Word or Excel his/her bitch through VBA, more power to them. It shouldn't be mandatory any more than taking Diff Eq, P. Chem, Art History, or any other class that is suited for a specific (collegiate) field of study.

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46866067)

"By all means, offer programming classes, but don't require people to take them to graduate. Attempting to learn programming if your mind doesn't work the right way (detail oriented, highly logical) would be torture indeed. Understanding how to use them should be sufficient for most people"

Good Point!

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46866313)

I agree, but I think programming to a certain degree makes live as a normal computer worker so much easier. I see people hand-copying columns of data around in excel and other inefficient stuff.

So they do not really need programming, but rather data manipulation. No need to know how quicksort works, just how to invoke the sort function, e.g.

Re:Just don't make programming classes mandatory (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 8 months ago | (#46866861)

Understanding computers in one thing. Understanding how to program them is something else entirely.

Thank you. This is one point that so-called technocrats in this site seem to miss routinely.

Games may be a good motivator .... (3, Interesting)

King_TJ (85913) | about 8 months ago | (#46865029)

I know a *lot* of kids in primary through middle school are really into playing Minecraft. Several schools in the area have started experimenting with not only teaching fundamentals of coding using Minecraft, but also using it to teach other subjects like math or physics.

It reminds me a bit of when I was in school in the 80's, how the LOGO programming language was often used as an intro to programming. You're not going to go out and develop a useful piece of software just from learning how to code in LOGO, just as learning to do custom mods in the world of Minecraft has limited utility elsewhere. But the concepts and basic skills translate.

Re:Games may be a good motivator .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865071)

And, as usual when it comes to anything that requires intelligence (such as math or being a good programmer), a grand majority of people won't understand it. They can play "monkey see, monkey do", but that is about it.

Re:Games may be a good motivator .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865097)

Actually they don't translate at all. Logo was originally heralded SPECIFICALLY as a way to teach algebra skills, which would translate into math class. Guess what? They didn't.

Re:Games may be a good motivator .... (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about 8 months ago | (#46865467)

After that, they tacked a word processor onto it and called it LOGOWriter to somehow integrate it into other fields of learning.

Re:Games may be a good motivator .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865267)

Are many girls into Minecraft? Any real solution should be as inclusive as possible.

Re:Games may be a good motivator .... (1)

SB2020 (1814172) | about 8 months ago | (#46866373)

From the small sample of my kids' friends - yes, girls are equally into Minecraft.

Precocious? (2)

matbury (3458347) | about 8 months ago | (#46865113)

While we're at it, let's teach toddlers to read and write before they learn to speak. The people who write this drivel know more about writing click-bait than they do about developmental psychology.

Re:Precocious? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865205)

More like developmental pseudoscience. As a physicist, the low standards I see in psychology studies are just baffling. Subjective criteria, blatant researcher bias, lack of rigor, etc. all plague psychology, and until that's taken care of, it can't be taken seriously, save for a select few studies.

You think violent video games cause people to be more aggressive? There's a study for you. You think they don't? There's a study for you, too. The studies may not be high quality, but they exist, and that's what matters right? In psychology, you'll have a study to point to no matter what your opinion is, far more so than other fields. Rejoice!

Re:Precocious? (1)

narcc (412956) | about 8 months ago | (#46865209)

There was quite a bit of research done in the late 70's early 80's. I'm going to guess you missed it.

Sounds good to me (0)

russotto (537200) | about 8 months ago | (#46865219)

Nothing for taking the joy out of something like making it mandatory. So in my waning years I'll still be able to work and not compete with those young whippersnappers with their fancy new programming languages.

Toys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865395)

Toys are the way forward.

Have a 'robots' class where the kids can learn how to make a physical robot do useful things. They'll lap it up.

Hello world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865431)

Whelp, that was easy guess it's time to move on to hacking banks. Shit almost forgot, where can I find a Hello Bank tutorial?

frig off beta (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865477)

begone!

Cars are everywhere today (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 8 months ago | (#46865671)

Quick, teach every kid how to build and fix them, they really need that skill!

What? No, it's not "something completely different". It's exactly the same.

Kids sure need to know how to deal with new technology. But teaching programming is simply the wrong approach. That's not what most of them will do when it comes to computers. Just like most people living in houses don't build them, most people driving cars don't maintain them and most people don't grow their own food.

I'd rather have schools teach kids how to use that technology responsibly. That it's no good idea to smear their private life all over the internet. That they should be wary what they tell who. That everything they put into the net will stay there forever.

"Generation internet" has one significant disadvantage compared to the generations before, there is no older generation with more experience and more knowledge about "the world". Their world is a place that most adults, and hence most parents, don't know more about than they themselves. So I guess it would only be right if schools taught them about the dangers and pitfalls, since nobody else will.

Programming is something that we should better keep to those that actually WANT to learn it. What is it good for to cram it down kids' throats? Except to annoy those that don't show any interest and keep those that would from enjoying it.

Re:Cars are everywhere today (1)

klik (93694) | about 8 months ago | (#46865781)

Quick, lets make sure everyone only has a basic understanding of the world around them! Let's not teach them critical and analytical methods! Lets make sure they only understand things well enough to be happy ignorant consumers!

Simple programming in childhood teaches some very useful general skills with regards to understanding how processes happen. You don't need teachers or parents to have more knowledge, you just need them to impart a way of thinking that doesn't resolve to :

1. I do something...
2. ???
3. Profit!

They need to understand that step 2 may be a lot more interesting than 'someone elses problem'.

You can teach that level of critical and analytical thought without going near a computer - but if the kid is interested, it puts them in a good position for when they do want to do something with computers, and if they aren't interested, it at least puts the concept of analytical thought, and working through a problem systematically as an option in their mind, rather than 'its too hard... why cant you spoon feed me?' .

  If you teach that level of critical thought, the good habits online become easier to teach, because you can present a situation, and the kids can evaluate the consequences.

You don't need to teach kids how to build a house, or engineer a car, but if they can understand a little of the methods needed to work out what is needed to do so, the process of learning any skill in future becomes easier.

Klik

Needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46865725)

Computers have spilled over in to almost all aspects of our lives unless you live in a cabin. It is not hard to create basic programming material for younger students. At least then, they will have a stronger understanding of the everyday objects in their life. I think this level should be mandatory as was said about english, math, history, etc.. After this, their should be optional courses to probe a computers operation in middle to high school in preparation for students that wish to pursue computer science.

It is hard to believe at the college level, their are students being taught the most introductury material as they enter their computer science program. Often times it is as bad as learning to multiply, write anything beyond a sentence, etc.. I remember writing a little game program in an intro science course. The only requirement was to allow the board to be played simulating a physical board. I turned in my assignment with the computer as the oponenet and, of course, determining at whatever point when the game was a stalemate or won. The teacher didn't quite know what to think of it. I wrote it in a day.

I attribute this to early education in computers and programming. It was not something that took away from the other "well rounded" education.

Finding The Teacher (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 8 months ago | (#46866385)

Teaching kids about computers will hit many teachers square in the gut and a lot of bad teachers will surely screw up a lot of kids. Most people, including teachers, do not have a real grasp as to what a computer is or what it can really do. There are severe, emotional, religious and political issues involved in the concept of computers. It is all too easy to get a teacher who is a dry, old, stick, who has been indoctrinated into believing that computers are just fancy adding machines that can do nothing creative, never make errors, and not trustworthy. If you take the time to point out that certain programs develop new knowledge and solve problems that have challenged human minds for hundreds of years you will be shocked at how fast he can bury that information and return to his former beliefs. Many people go so far as to believe that computers and robotic devices can never displace human labor. They will stand by that belief even as workers are displaced before their eyes. And if we dare to suggest that Shakespeare could have done better if he had access to good computers we may give half the academic community a heart attack. As a youngster I had no clue as to how ignorant many teachers were. At some point one catches on that in many cases teachers only parrot back what some other functionary pounded into their head in college and false teachings abound. American history as taught in schools is a complete mess and often only a matter of opinion and false opinion at that.

Sagan Said It (1)

breadlord (827860) | about 8 months ago | (#46866547)

Lots of variations to be found on this quote The one I know best starts with something like: 'We live in a society ruled by science and technology, however' and the rest I found on a quote mill: We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces. - Carl Sagan (http://www.dreamthisday.com/quotes-by/carl-sagan/) We're going to have to catch up sometime. I mentioned this to a friend a couple years ago and he referred to the unenlightened as Eloi. I laughed hard. Then I got scared.
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