Inside SWT

Monday, July 31, 2006

Kids these days

The last conference I was at, I went to dinner with a professor from a well known university. Ever known someone who just wants to argue with you and make his point, no matter what you say? This guy was a macro expansion. I said one word and he expanded!

Anyways, this guy began frothing at the mouth when I suggested that learning Lisp, Prolog, Smalltalk and other computer languages was good for the students. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't suggesting that they dump C, HTML and Java (or whatever else will get you a job these days). My point was that these sorts of languages contain different concepts that open up your mind to new ideas and new ways of thinking. If you don't see these things in school, then where else will you see them? You are in danger of never learning what a closure is (Java sure don't have 'em) or really understanding recursion or backtracking. Where better to learn than in school, where you don't need to ship and bugs don't cost people money?

Alas, I failed. Kids these days are missing out. Sad but true.

Steve

9 Comments:

  • I agree completely. I recall that when I went to university, I wondered why I wasn't learning a production language (like C++) instead of esoterics like ML and Prolog.

    However, they've stood me in good stead ever since; I've adapted techniques in those languages to others that I've used since. And there's no way that I'd get a job using a language like ML.

    It's a shame, but most universities are more concerned with pushing out immediately employable graduates to make their university look good, than considering what's good for the student.

    By Blogger AlBlue, at 10:35 AM  

  • I wasn't saying "don't teach C++". Rather, don't stop teaching fundamental computer concepts and new ways of thinking.

    Steve

    By Blogger Steve, at 10:39 AM  

  • I'm with you on this one Steve. I am especially glad I learned Prolog. We used a lot of those concepts when building the CDT's parsers. Also, learning Smalltalk teaches you true polymorphism which you don't really see in C++ et al.

    And you're right, you won't learn these while working in the real world (sorry Smalltalk fans, those days are over). But I fear that universities are losing sight of the science part in computer science.

    By Blogger Doug Schaefer, at 11:43 AM  

  • The Smalltalk days are not over. I can't hear you. lalalalala.

    By Blogger Wayne, at 11:51 AM  

  • Thanks for saying this Steve!!! Years ago industry wanted Java, so entire programs where changed to only teach Java!

    I think this was one of the biggest mistakes made by computer science departments. Now universities are worried about what students perceive, and worry that they will not get the numbers if they don't teach the "Hot Technologies"!

    By Blogger Bull, at 12:35 PM  

  • You really should trust anything that Dave Thomas guy says; sure he's a prof ... but what does he REALLY know!

    By Blogger pmuellr, at 12:56 PM  

  • I was still taught Prolog when I was a CS student not so long ago.

    Most of the good universities do teach various languages (ie., Scheme, LISP, Prolog) in the early classes.

    /me needs a good prolog IDE :)

    By Blogger zx, at 2:31 PM  

  • Hmmm....
    It is weird. At my school they teach html and java in middle school. And a programming language called KAREL which has no usage outside the educational system. I agree that I expect a bit more than that from higher education, if I go to college I want to be taught something useful.

    By Anonymous Betka, at 3:24 AM  

  • You absolutely must be taught something useful, but university is about learning to learn too. A good university will do both.

    Steve

    By Blogger Steve, at 7:52 AM  

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