Posts Tagged ‘math’

Not Every Child Needs to Learn How To Code

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

I’ve seen a lot of people talking lately about how important it is for every child to learn to program, to code.

I disagree.

I think that it’s very important for children to make art and music, to learn to read and write very well. I think that it’s essential that children learn that the scientific method is how we discover how the physical world works. I think that everyone single child needs a solid education in the language of math.

From my perspective, history, literature, and civics are are critical areas of study. But programming is a specialization that I feel is only necessary to the few who are interested in it.

But won’t the future belong to the programmers? Nope. The future belongs to those who create. And creating isn’t limited or bounded by the ability to program or code.

I have many programmer friends and colleagues. I value their skills. But I don’t believe that everyone should be just like them no more than I believe that everyone needs to be a skilled auto mechanic or landscaper or architect. I don’t even believe that everyone should become a professional-quality writer.

It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that many, even most programmers are not vastly rich from things they make. Most of the programmers that I know are working stiffs, little different from people who work on an auto assembly line or build houses. They code, they program, because they enjoy it, they have the skills. Very few of them want to build apps or create the next Facebook.

The foundation of programming is logic. Children need to learn logic, but programming is an application of logic and not required to thrive in today’s or tomorrow’s world. Those who want to program can learn to do so easily if they understand logic. But to insist that all children learn to code and program is a misunderstanding of this world and the world to come.


Writing Assignment: Writing About Three Objects

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Writing a description of a single object is always a good exercise. If you add another thing, write about two objects, you can compare and contrast them. Add a third and you have a set and the possibilities multiply. The set is often more interesting than the objects contained in the set.

Sets go beyond mathematics. They are they ways we organize our lives. Two objects are interesting—three is a collection.  Look around you: the things that you use and value are often found in groups of at least three. My desk contains no fewer than ten manual writing implements at any one time. Observing that alone would give you a clue that I may be a writer.

Here’s my example:

Above my office bookshelf I have a selection of science fiction pulp magazines. I’ve had each carefully prepared and framed with museum-quality mounting. The entire issue is carefully preserved—not just the cover. They are also primarily Volume 1, Number 1 issues (accept for the three issues of Astounding carrying the serialization of Robert A. Heinlein’s “Double Star”).

One of my favorites is a single frame holding three small format magazines, each v.1, no.1. They are a set: Vanguard, Venture, Vortex.

Their covers are endlessly fascinating. Vanguard shows the tail of a blasting rocket in space where an unlucky astronaut has fallen into the fiery exhaust. Venture’s cover has a powerful, bare-chested caged man in the background. He appears dominated by the strong, redheaded women in the foreground. Her breasts are covered by metallic cones and she wears a sheer top. It is clear that she is in charge, but of what? Vortex displays either a giant microscope focused on a man and a women fallen upon the slide surface, or is it a miniature couple, reduced in some mysterious way?

Each cover promises a story, action, and exotic adventure. I’ve learned that most of these magazines, called, “pulps” because of the poor quality paper used in their printing, also have equally poor writing, but not all do. Within their covers the greats of the golden era learned their trade and built a powerful genre. The stories, good or bad, were wrapped in glorious, lurid covers. There’s a promise in these covers. And that’s why I display them in the room where I write, where I work.

For today’s assignment, take three like objects, even if they are very little alike, and write about them. You can spend some time, but not much, describing them. Your task with this assignment is to talk about them as a whole, a set. What does the set itself evoke? What does combining these objects unlock, allow you to think and then write about?

It shouldn’t take you long to look at your surroundings, find three like objects and begin writing about them as a single thing.


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