[plt-scheme] Perplexed Programmers

From: Jos Koot (jos.koot at telefonica.net)
Date: Mon Aug 27 05:12:39 EDT 2007

To Matthias
I don't think anyone or any particular isolated group is to blame for the 
dramatic effects of the uncontrolled outburst of automization. If the teachers 
are to blame, then may be their students as well?. If programmers should push 
back against wrong devellopments in their company, students should push back 
too, I think. When I said:
"IT science has done and is doing a great job and much of it has become 
available as adquirable technical skills"
I was thinking of the study material now available, some of the greatest books 
even for free. When I started studying physics and mathematics in the second 
half of the sixties in Amsterdam (Netherlands) I even never had heard of the 
word 'computer'. I had the luck to do practical work in a group housed in the 
same building as a High Energy Physics group, that at that time had a CDC2400. 
As we shared rooms, my group had free access to it too. The CDC2400 was one of 
two computers in Amsterdam available for scientists and some privileged 
students. But there was no teacher anywhere around, nor any textbook. My 
professor at the institute did not have the slightest idea about computers (but 
he was a good scientist in physics). I learnt FORTRAN and COMPASS and something 
about hardware from CDC reference manuals. If your son's piano teacher is right, 
my tone (and style) for ever must have been set in that time. That's not I nice 
thought. I do not blame the University of Amsterdam for the lack of guidance, 
though. May be eduction in informatics was not develloped as fast as it should 
have, but there was now way the university could have held pace with the 
explosion of demands for programmers and software devellopers, I think. I did 
the impression, though, that some scientists and teachers did not regard 
programming and software devellopment as a scientific art, but rather as a 
technical skill that should be acquired elsewhere. Regarding it from the 
perspective of that time, I do not blame the university for that.
Jos Koot

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Matthias Felleisen" <matthias at ccs.neu.edu>
To: "Jos Koot" <jos.koot at telefonica.net>
Cc: "Todd O'Bryan" <toddobryan at mac.com>; "PLT Scheme" 
<plt-scheme at list.cs.brown.edu>
Sent: Monday, August 27, 2007 12:51 AM
Subject: Re: [plt-scheme] Perplexed Programmers

> My answer/question was a bit flip but it came straight from the heart  of 
> someone who has taught freshmen a dozen times since 1992. The  "product" I get 
> to see is so under-educated that I have to think that  the many many more 
> billions that parents and taxpayers spend on  public schools are even more 
> wasted than the $95M that the LA ISD  spent for a partially correct program.
> In addition, I believe that the education of programmers is seriously  flawed, 
> starting with how-to-code-in-24-minutes, on to high school CS  education, 
> college and MS cash-cow programs. As my sons' piano and  saxophone teachers 
> used to say, the first year sets the tone. The  habits that you pick up there 
> dominate your internalization. (Some  of) those of us who have overcome this 
> tone-setting experience are on  this list. We tend to be highly introspective 
> people.
> For specific failures like that, I tend to believe that both  programmers and 
> managers are at fault:
> * Thesis: Code has two users. The first are the ones who interact  with the 
> program after deployment. The second are the programmers who  look at the code 
> after it was created, read it, and modify it. This  happens during development 
> as well as maintenance. I conjecture that  the concerns for the two 
> communities are related. [
> * Managers should represent both users. They are the feedback element  during 
> the development cycle. They barely succeed with representing  the first group 
> and are never educated enough to represent the second  one. Even though 
> business programs teach discount and opportunity  cost and everything, 
> managers just don't understand this point when  applied to software.
> * Result: Code is considered successful if it kind of works for the 
> interacting community and is roughly on time. XP succeeds [more than  regular 
> programming] because it replaces Managers with real Customers  during the 
> development cycle and always focuses on feature  interaction. They thus get 
> better trained programmers, just like  shops in the spirit of JaneStreet.
> * Programmers should understand the issues, even if they can't do all  the 
> business evaluations. If they see things going wrong, they should  push back. 
> They don't.
> * The people who could see it all are those who train programmers and  have a 
> modicum of business sense. Or at least those who set the  curricula. This is 
> where I lay the largest blame but it's a long-term  problem and could be seen 
> if enough push-back from enlightened  programmers and managers came in.
> [This whole thesis is the premise of my HtDP, HtDC, and HtDS; and the  last 
> bullet is perhaps the reason why this is the case.]
> -- Matthias

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