Computer Languages: Students Need to Speak Them
Technology has changed our lives and society in innumerable ways. Computers and the software that makes them work are the common denominators of a global world. America has given birth to and enjoyed the economic benefits of the personal-computer revolution, and so it stands to reason that its schools would be in the forefront of computer-science education. Regrettably and inexplicably, this is not the case. While there is a common feeling among educators and parents that understanding how to use computers is essential, there is widespread ambivalence about the need to teach students computer languages. Educators believe that by introducing computer methods into instruction, we will leave students unskilled in the basics.
In art class, kids learn fun and engaging skills at the beginning, working their way to advanced techniques as their skills and interests deepen. In math class, students are drilled in mind-numbing methods for calculating numeric values by hand, for years before they learn how to solve algebraic problems. Forcing kids to learn long multiplication and division as a prerequisite to algebraic problem-solving is like teaching art students to mix paint before they are allowed to draw pictures.
In math class, students plug away at the same old arithmetic chores, despite the fact that the calculator was invented half a century ago and is in constant use by everyone (including the students themselves) in the form of a cellphone. Bulldozers are used to dig holes hundreds of times faster than workers with shovels; our kids are standing right next to a math bulldozer eager to fire it up and get to work. Our educational system hands them a shovel and tells them to dig holes the old-fashioned way. I believe that it is time to re-examine what we mean by...
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