I'm reminded of 2 things about being at secondary school in the UK, which, from my sons attendance today I don't believe have changed that much.
1. Every school has a piano. I never recall any pupil touching it, although I assume an extremely tiny %age may have been granted this privilege unbeknownst to me. All I learnt about music and pianos at school is that pianos are not there to be touched.
Years later, at some event or another at my son's school, near the end I played a few notes on the similarly unused (except for the single teacher whose job it is to accompany the kids "singing") school piano, and got a look of such disdain from one of the teachers as though I'd committed an act of unbelievable evil by playing the piano.
Perhaps I might have encouraged one of the kids to play the piano and where might that lead! Anarchy and chaos
Similarly, it always amused me how much fancy equipment and various interesting devices our school had that were wheeled out to impress parents and new starters at "Open day" – Devices and fancy equipment that I can state with complete honesty I never once used as part of any lesson after joining the school and never saw again, except for the 4 or 5 times I spent, as part of the open day, showing a new round of kids and their parents how cool the music / science / art or woodwork department were because of this cool equipment the school had.
My son's enthusiasm when he went to the open day at a secondary school and he saw the stuff reminded me of this. Although I refrained from comment and hope things are better. I can't help the feeling that the needs of the curriculum outweigh the possibility of anything interesting appearing in a subject studied at school however much the teachers might wish things were different.
2. When computers were introduced to my school I was in the penultimate year. This meant that we were locked out of the school at break times.
We solved this problem in a variety of ingenious if dishonest ways. Stealing keys to the computer room, getting our own copies cut so we could open the door. Leaving bolts on side doors undone so we could pull the door open (so long as the teacher or "5th year" who locked us out only fastened the main bolt) Or by leaving window catches undone so that we could get into the school.
After which, once inside we'd sneak around from this unauthorised entrance place to the computer room, hoping not to get caught before we reached the goal.
The point of this, of course, was so that we could sit and program and mess around on the computers our school had (Initially a Northstar horizon system – if my brain remembers correctly – later a few BBC Model Bs)
At no time during lessons, even lessons for computer studies, did we use the computers. Therefore, what we learnt at school about computing is that you have to steal time on them – and also, there's no real point worrying about people who don't steal time on them. They aren't interested and probably are no more likely to be programmers than I would have been a footballer if you'd invented a new cheap set of goalposts that you hoped schools, and maybe parents would buy their kids to try scoring a goal because Man Utd et al are struggling to find British players and are having to get them from abroad.
School equipment is either broken or you're prevented from using it so that it won't be. The one time the teacher is in the room and you're studying the subject you expect to involve using said equipment, instead you spend an hour reading some terse drivel about Hollerith doing the 1890 US census using punched cards (I remember that, which no doubt means QI will tell me it's not actually true at some point in the future)
And being patronisingly told that the job of a computer programmer is nothing like you expect when you're playing on your micro computer at home, but is, in fact, as terse and full of drivel as their coursework and involves these punched cards)
Sure it did :rollseyes:
I think things are better these days. PCs have been seen in schools. Perhaps a less taboo attitude towards letting kids use them too, albeit not really for programming.
Programming. The new latin? What about the old latin? They didn't teach us any. Which I predict is in fact likely to pan out. If you're at a school that teaches or taught Latin sometime since we said Romanes eunt domus (or is it Romani ite domum) , then perhaps you'll hit upon some programming during your school life.
The rest of us, as you can see, learnt more Latin from Monty Python.
So I don't hold much hope for any programming course introduced into secondary schools, with or without raspberry pis accompanying it (as it seems the various stories on the BBC about the NY mayor, the new latin and the raspberry pi all seem to be pushing towards this goal – we have no programmers try and get everyone to be one, until a few years later there'll be stories saying 'there are too many programmers, comp sci graduates can't get jobs')
Although the stories today are already saying this problem with new graduates is already happening, because everyone wants to be a "game programmer", whatever that is, and so they jump on a bandwagon course at a "university" that used to be an outdoor swimming pool, play TF2 for a bit, use a tool that lets them write a 3d game by pressing the 'create game' button and then apply to be John Carmack II.
Let's face it, anyone good at programming, especially games, is going to fly to the US and work at Valve aren't they? That's the real problem the UK has. It sucks. And the games companies in the UK suck and seem more interested in whining in the press about having to pay tax than developing a business. So, not surprisingly, they get the choice of people who can't fly to the US and get a job at Valve (or indeed the people that realise you get more money being a dork in many corporate IT departments than you do for being a whizzy programmer in a UK game company)
The thing is, programming is about problem solving and it's incredibly difficult to do.
The fact many of the 45000 people who have written IRC clients for linux think that programming is easy is because they learnt programming by being shown the syntax for a high-level language with which they then "solve" a problem that has already been solved (and that didn't really need a solution in the first place) believing, in the process they are learning some vital or difficult skill by writing in a new language.
But, even the most mumble-mouthed halfwit drooling monosyllabic English has learnt something far more complex than the syntax for a programming language and could do that when he was at primary school (it's just a pity many of us stopped learning at about that point too)
To this end, you don't turn out a nation of programmers by teaching kids basic. Or cobol. Or C. Or lisp. Or logo. And definitely not at school with the big pile of equipment packed away for open days.
Sure, there are lots of 10th rate programmers writing code in IT departments in British businesses that do no more than this (I've been one, perhaps some of you have too) and they make good money doing it (compared with at least the general pay in the same office and what you might expect to earn if you spend 8 years in medical school and then start in the NHS)
The irony is that anyone would think there is a shortage of these skills, when you could train a potato to do it. If only it weren't for the humerous way they try and recruit.
Agencies sell these people's "skills" based upon the same moronic idea that a list of specific languages and versions "vax vms, oracle 7, forms 4.5" matter or took years to learn and masters, when most of them couldn't solve a real programming problem if the job they got required it (which luckily for them it usually won't)
Programming is hard. Knuth said that. Teaching problem solving skills is more key to solving the problem (if there is one in the first place)
But there are lots of cool uses 20,30 and 40-somethings have for these devices.