[plt-scheme] Re: More pedagogic stuff

From: David Einstein (deinst at gmail.com)
Date: Tue Aug 12 09:55:46 EDT 2008

On Mon, Aug 11, 2008 at 8:44 PM, Shriram Krishnamurthi <sk at cs.brown.edu>wrote:

> David,
> Working at a university that does not recognize the AP
> CS exams, I certainly agree with you about the exam.
> If *all* universities had the guts to take the same position,
> then the exam would quietly die away.
> What is sad is not that the exam got cancelled.  It is that
> as a result the subject -- which as we all know is far more
> rich, interesting, etc. than the exam -- will invariably get
> dragged down a little along with the lost exam.

I'm not sure that I agree.  The classes that will be lost will be classes
that are aimed at passing the test that are taught by people who, for the
most part, know slightly more than their median student and considerably
less than their best students.  I am not sure that losing such classes hurts
the dissemination of the rich, interesting stuff.  I suspect that many high
schools would not have even  looked at HDTP because it did not come close to
addressing the test.  Schools are not judged on whether or not their
students know anything useful or interesting, just whether they know that
they need to to pass the test.  (A month from now I am going to suffer the
anual rant from my wife, who teaches freshman English, on how the MCAS is
ruining what few skills her students might have had.)

I think that the future lies in making things like HDTP, DrScheme, and
Squeak available to students and/or schools, and letting them use then
individually, or in groups.  From my days in the Navy I know that computer
aided self directed[*] learning can work, and if it could work in 1979 then
it certainly should work now.

Similar things happen with mathematics.  Despite years of sitting in math
classes, most people are not exposed to any of the rich, interesting, or
even useful mathematics.  I have yet to meet a high school math teacher,
outside of a math conference, who has any interest or understanding of the
beauty of mathematics

> It's the knock-on effects that bother Matthias and me.  The
> exam itself, we toast its demise.

Use the demise of the test to fix the system.  I'm not sure that the ACM is
the right venue for you to be ranting at, the MAA has been talking about
reforming high school math for decades, but the people I know that teach
undergraduates have not reported improvements.

> Shriram

[*]  Well, quasi self directed,  the Navy did possess motivational techniqes
that the average high school teacher or college professor can only dream of
with the blackest part of his or her heart.
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