Sunday, April 05, 2009

Teaching kids to think

Three years ago now David Brin wrote a piece in Salon entitled, "Why Jonny can't code" bemoaning the lack of tools to teach kids programming. Nat Torkington, on his return the the world down under, was moved to do something about it and has been consistently doing something about it ever since.

I can’t imagine how people survive without programming. The alternative to knowing a little bit of code is suffering through hours of manual labour in Excel or Word. - Nat Torkington
In parallel an argument has been brewing that the problem with the high school computer science curriculum isn't in the high schools, but in the universities themselves. There is even debate whether there is there any point in trying to teach kids programming at all, and whether we should try to separate the programming sheep from the non-programming goats up front?

However I think all of these arguments are actually missing the point. In the end what University is about is to try and teach the kids to think. A degree isn't, for the most part, about the knowledge we're trying to impart to you. Although if you can hang onto that knowledge you'll probably find it useful, that isn't really the point. Instead a degree is about giving you the tools to learn things by yourself later in life when you leave the ivory towers of academia.

In the end it doesn't matter what we teach them, so long as they learn how to learn...