[plt-scheme] Computers considered harmful

From: Matthias Felleisen (matthias at ccs.neu.edu)
Date: Fri May 8 20:49:34 EDT 2009

On May 8, 2009, at 7:24 PM, Prabhakar Ragde wrote:

> Matthias wrote:
>> Our students wish to use computers. If we don't use computers and
>> show them how to write tool 3D simulations that also plug into their
>> emotional brains and issue smells at the same time, they'll go down
>> the hallway to the EE guys who have no qualms teaching ASM, eh, C++
>> again.
>> Our only choice is to combine the world of "modeling" with  
>> programming.
> Sorry, I know the discussion has moved on, but I want to challenge  
> this
> point.
> This describes the students we are getting now, for the most part,  
> who have been seduced into the field by CGI and video games. It  
> does not describe the students we are not getting but would like to  
> have as well. In particular, math students seem to be excited by  
> problem solving that is not tarted up with visuals and sound (and  
> there are more female high-school students interested in math and  
> good at it than interested in CS these days). The DrScheme approach  
> is the best one I have seen to date to convince these students that  
> CS also offers what thrills them. (Haskell may be even better in  
> this respect but the learning curve for beginners is too steep, at  
> least at present.) Sound and fury may actually be counterproductive  
> for these students; it may be the reason they are not in CS in the  
> first place. --PR

We're in agreement here. Except that in my experience the students in  
for the sound, the fury, and everything else far outnumber the  
students who wish to study the ten varieties of fixed point  
combinators in the lambda calculus, the Church and Barendergt  
numerals, and other space oddities :-)

At Rice I was apparently disliked by the physics department because I  
caused several highly talented and deeply mathematical students to  
switch majors. Then again, I have had at least two students tell me  
(in the words of one) that "you seduced me, you made me think  
computing and programming was sooo elegant and sooo beautiful, and  
now I am stuck with C++." :-)

-- Matthias

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