[plt-scheme] Perplexed Programmers

From: Prabhakar Ragde (plragde at uwaterloo.ca)
Date: Wed Aug 29 13:33:42 EDT 2007

> Maybe it's time to admit that the best programming is an art, and
> there aren't any formulas for producing it. If we could ask Picasso
> how he drew a picture, he would probably say, Just like this, and
> fluidly draw us another as his answer.

We can't teach people to draw like Picasso. But we can teach them the 
technical aspects of drawing, plus something about representation, 
composition, and so on. That will be good enough for many commercial 
situations (illustration, advertisement, etc.) and stands in sharp 
contrast to either accepting whatever untrained or poorly-trained people 
produce, or relying on something like paint-by-numbers.

Pulling back from the analogy, HtDP's design recipe is an example of 
this approach, situating technique within a framework in which 
creativity can be used in a controlled fashion to solve problems. And 
Matthias's reimagining of the curriculum is an example of what needs to 
be done. Not that everything he says is right (I have my own ideas about 
parts of it, as I imagine we all do), but he is making the effort, in a 
way that transcends academic sub-disciplines, rather than trying to 
satisfy the often-contradictory demands of each of them.

I don't think any of us -- teachers, professors, students, programmers, 
project leaders, managers, executives, users -- are without fault in 
this situation, and we know so little about it that it is very easy to 
blame others. I prefer to do what I can in my own sphere, constantly 
checking to see if what I do makes sense and if it can be improved, and 
to ask others to do the same in theirs. --PR

(PS PLT Scheme is a terrific and inspirational tool in this effort.)

Posted on the users mailing list.