Coding: 'suitable for exceptionally dull weirdos'

This topic was created by Drewc .


  1. Drewc Gold badge

    Coding: 'suitable for exceptionally dull weirdos'

    One of the reasons, why plans to introduce coding for all to the ICT curriculum in England and Wales, is 'stupid' - says Willard Foxton.

    Our article is here.

    Comments below!

    1. The Mole

      Re: Coding: 'suitable for exceptionally dull weirdos'

      Well when I was in primary school in the 80s I remember using Logo and floor turtles which started with simple steps and then proceeded to loops and sub procedures, also using some electronics control systems to make traffic lights and light houses - again that had loops and conditionals in it, plus out of school I went to a club to learn BBC basic. That's at least three different programming languages creating algorithms before I knew much algebra. 20-30 years on the tools and resources will have got much better with things like Raspberry Pi, Scratch and youtube videos.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: Coding: 'suitable for exceptionally dull weirdos'

        @The Mole, yes yes, but that's because you are a dull weirdo! At least in the view of this not very exceptional blogger Willard Foxton.

        What I got at school was some ol' Mac to "learn" using a word processor and such (that might be part of the reason why I still can't stand Apple;-). What I had at home, having obviously been a dull weirdo myself, was a PC/XT, first with Basic until that bored me and then Turbo Pascal. That was great for me.

        Software programmes are so omnipresent that at least some basic programming, algorithms should be taught at school. It helps to understand what is now quite a big part of our surroundings. And I believe knowing how programmes basically work also helps to understand how to use them as a user - far more than e.g. learning how to use MS Word 2003 and then start all over again with Word 2007. But does it have to be coding in at least two programming languages? Not necessarily at school.

    2. kingmonkey

      Re: Coding: 'suitable for exceptionally dull weirdos'

      Dullard Foxton; the self proclaimed 'Professional Storyteller' and I can only presume 'Media Condottiere' is a euphemism for 'Troll'.

      This nice-but-dim public school boy is only insulting us with his outpourings because he needs the traffic to pay for the lifestyle with which Bernie Madoff has attempted to deny him. If their dimwitted investment profile hadn't involved putting the family finances into a pyramid scheme, then I'm sure we would have been spared the handwringing that comes from such an intellectual giant describing how he proudly can't attract any prospective romantic interest.

      The diatribes from this individual need only be taken as seriously as the buffoon who spewed them forth.

      1. Robert Grant

        Re: Coding: 'suitable for exceptionally dull weirdos'

        Apple was more like the the charming tech genius and the weirdo industrial designer.

    3. Oh Homer Silver badge

      algorithm != algebra

      Foxton is either an ignorant cnut or a propagandist with some mysterious agenda. Programming is not maths, it's nothing more than defining a series of steps required to accomplish a task. You could write a "program" in plain English if you wanted to, or Urdu or Cantonese for that matter.

      Programs may also (and at some stage invariably do) include some form of mathematical computation, but it needn't be especially complex, indeed it could be as simple as the times tables, which isn't exactly unsuitable for the age group in question. Programming can be about many things besides crunching numbers: there's no (visible) maths in "Hello World!", for example.

      A quick background check of Foxton reveals that he's a "card-carrying Tory", which may explain his anti-progressive attitude. The only other explanation I can think of, is that someone has a vested interest in ensuring that our children continue to be trained in that glorified Microsoft secretarial course called "ICT", instead of being given a proper education.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: algorithm != algebra

        "Foxton is either an ignorant cnut or a propagandist with some mysterious agenda. "

        Well yes and no.

        An Arabic gentleman called Al-hourismi (roughly) wrote a book called "Al-gabra," describing steps to take to carry out certain tasks. It's his name that the world Algorithm is derived.

        But speaking personally I imagine posh boy Mr Foxton may have some sort of un-articulated agenda.

        BTW The Logo language and it's "turtle" (Either the software sprite or a real roving robot) were designed to teach primary school age children mathematical concepts before they had learned the "Oh it's Maths, it's hard" meme, around 30 years ago.

        1. Oh Homer Silver badge

          Re: algorithm != algebra

          Close. His name was actually Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khowarizmi, and his book was called Hidab al-jabr wal-muqubala.

          But the fact remains that defining a series of steps to accomplish a task (i.e. programming), need not have have anything to do with algebra, or any other branch of mathematics, regardless of the word's etymology.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: algorithm != algebra

            But does it have to be coding in at least two programming languages? Not necessarily at school.

            Correct. LISP should be enough for anyone.

            1. streaky Silver badge

              Re: algorithm != algebra

              "LISP should be enough for anyone"

              .. that never wants to be employed/employable, yeah.

              1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

                Re: algorithm != algebra

                .. that never wants to be employed/employable, yeah.

                Which is why "professionals" are complaining about "muh jobs are being outsourced" as "locally written stuff" falls over at the next sneeze.

                Your paperbag, sir. Please code your way out of it.

                1. streaky Silver badge

                  Re: algorithm != algebra

                  Which is why "professionals" are complaining about "muh jobs are being outsourced" as "locally written stuff" falls over at the next sneeze

                  I'm not complaining about anything of the sort, because I'm perfectly employable and get job offers in the UK constantly. But then I never did Java at uni so I'm fixed for life.

          2. Tom Melly

            Re: algorithm != algebra

            When you write any sort of function, its form is basically algebraic, even if it's just a bunch of statements and operators.

            However, it's arguable that programming is not a bad introduction to algebra, but I wouldn't really expect anyone under 12 to be actually hand-coding (unless by choice).

    4. Jim 59

      Re: Coding: 'suitable for exceptionally dull weirdos'

      The article feels like it was cranked out in 20 minutes by someone with a hangover. Perhaps there was an editorial mix-up or deadline snafu? After puffing a "friend" and a previous article, Foxton gives us 200 words of self-aggrandizing invective about runts and wierdos, working up to his main theme that 7 is too young to learn programming. Many might agree, but we don't really care. So boorish and gung-ho is the text that we give it no more weight that we would a Youtuber's turdspurt.

      All is not lost, however. Modern software, designed by some wierdo, has rendered Telegraph blogging a strictly repetitive and mechanical activity, unlike plumbung, which requires certificates and exams. Category A Prisoners could be trained to blog for the Telegraph on a regular basis, which would-

  2. Ryan Barrett


    I'm all for people to learning to write – I wrote a piece arguing we should teach it in prisons earlier this year – but I think we need to be aware of its limitations. Writing is a niche, mechanical skill, a bit like plumbing or car repair.

    1. Law

      Re: Fixed


      As a subject, writing only appeals to a limited set of people – the aforementioned opinionated weirdos.

      There’s a reason most journalists are portrayed as somebody who wouldn't know their arse from their elbow when depicted in the media. It’s because if you leave the dim writing nerd in charge of putting words to paper, he'll start muttering to the world, and others might actually believe the bollocks he writes.

      1. ~mico

        Thank you, sir!

        Now i need a new keyboard.

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Fixed

        In Walking Dead, Carly the Journalist couldn't even correctly put the AAA cells into a portable radio. Then she got killed in a most gruesome way.

        I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

  3. James Hughes 1

    I've said it before

    And I'll say it again.

    The guy is a clueless cockwomble.

    Whilst coding is never going to suit everyone, the process of learning it gives insights in to logical thought and much more. And of course, people who have never been exposed to it are, and may find they have an aptitude for it.

    As for the practitioners being dull weirdos. Well, Foxton is a 'journalist' in a world where it's a dying art, hastened by articles like this, which are of an appalling standard. I think he has more chance of being in the dull weirdo group than anyone I know.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: I've said it before

      @ James Hughes 1

      Upvote for the word cockwomble.

      Coding isnt the be all end all but problem solving is unless you get into one of those fuzzy academic subjects like writing. In any subject where an actual result is needed it requires step by step logic. Even DIY requires the ability to do things in order and to understand the impact of not doing something. Of course this process is what we try to teach kids as it is required for almost everything they do from the basics to the complicated.

      What irritates me in IT is how it descended to the most pointless tasks with no lessons on anything useful. The tasks fell into office admin instead of doing anything.

    2. NumptyScrub

      Re: I've said it before

      So he is arguing that we should not be teaching children "niche mechanical skills" in school eh? Awesome, no more football or rugby or tennis or hockey then, since most people aren't professional footballers or professional tennis players. I'm pretty sure there are more plumbers in the UK than professional hockey players.

      What's that, you can be an amateur sportsperson, doing it during free time and not being paid for it? Oh, well if you are ok with teaching small children sports skills without much hope of them making a career out of it, instead mainly for the physical fitness benefits, I wonder if you can apply the same logic to programming skills and the resulting mental fitness benefits... ?

    3. John Tserkezis

      Re: I've said it before

      "Whilst coding is never going to suit everyone, the process of learning it gives insights in to logical thought and much more. And of course, people who have never been exposed to it are, and may find they have an aptitude for it."

      While I agree with your statements, real life doesn't turn out that way. For instance, I *might* have an aptitude for painting - but I'll never be a painter, not because I've never been exposed to it or don't explicitely want to do it, just because I just don't care for it enough.

      There may be elite athletes who prefer accounting, mathamaticians who prefer their TiVo, plumbers who prefer electronics...

      People gravitate to what they *want* to do, at the very least at a hobby level, rather than what their natural aptitude is. I remember a special school program that took the students apart to find out what type of sport they're best at, and put them into that sport where they will ideally perform better, faster than what they might have chosen themselves. No idea what happened to it, but I suppose it speaks volumes that program is unheard of now. After school, they probably gave up and went with what they wanted in the first place.

      1. Stacy

        Re: I've said it before

        I'll go with the giving insights into logical thought as early as it's practical, but I think that starting with programming is the wrong way to go.

        Starting with programming isn't going to teach this, rather the opposite, it teaches to try, try and try again until the damn thing compiles and runs.

        We all know the people who think with the keyboard until they get the result that they want. Unfortunately most of the time take this approach leads to programs which are slow, clunky and impossible to maintain.

        Teach them to think first, and then introduce a programming language. That way they can work out the solution and code accordingly.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: I've said it before

          Starting with programming isn't going to teach this, rather the opposite, it teaches to try, try and try again until the damn thing compiles and runs.

          > 2013

          > Using a language that needs a compiler

          Even on the JVM, you get the "groovysh" interpreter.

    4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: I've said it before

      James Hughes 1,

      I'm a little concerned by your use of language. I find the word cockwomble to be extremely derogatory towards womblekind. In fact, I'm reluctantly forced to the conclusion that you may even be a womblist.

      Just you come down to Wimbledon Common and say that - then me and my mates will give you a proper kicking. Both underground and overground.

      As for the rubbishy piece you were commenting on, I'm sure we can find a use for it. Orinoco believes that many copies will be discarded, probably halfway through reading, and these will make an excellent shelter for him to snooze under.

    5. cordwainer 1

      Re: I've said it before

      "Clueless cockwomble" has just been added to my list of favorite invectives.

  4. James Boag


    Does this count as institutionalised trolling ?

  5. bigtimehustler

    Haha, this guy is just funny. In this outdated view of all coders as dull boring people, the geek stereotype I guess, he has already done all the mocking of himself that I could ever do.

  6. tonybarry

    Sounds like sour grapes to me

    Those who can, do.

    Those who can't, eructate.

    1. albaleo

      Re: Sounds like sour grapes to me

      Slight correction...

      Those who can, do

      Those who can't, teach

      For those who can't teach, there's always journalism

      1. proto-robbie

        Re: Sounds like sour grapes to me

        I have three words for you:-

        Eructation, eructation, eructation.

  7. Skizz

    Well in that case...

    probably a good idea to get rid of all those other subjects that "only appeal[s] to a limited set of people", for instance: physics, chemistry, biology, geography, to name a few. How many young 'uns are going to become scientists!

    Just teach them how to put an X next to the conservative candidate and pay your taxes without querying it and you're good to go!

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Well in that case...

      You beat me to it!

      I was going to say 'foreign languages' but the point is the same.

      (And before the bozo says that it Is useful to at least have some grounding in languages, I'd say the same about a technology most people use every friggin' day! )

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well in that case...

      sshhhh, don't give the Conservative Party of Canada any more ideas about why to cut education and stifle science. That seems to be their Ministry of Educations modus operandi.

  8. Alan Bourke

    This man is both right and wrong.

    He's absolutely right that it is pointless trying to teach every kid to be a coder any more than it's a good idea to teach them to be a car mechanic. However, it's a good idea to know how to drive both a car and a computer, and troubleshoot problems up to a point. The latter is what they should be learning.

    He's talking out his hole in describing it as a repetitive mechanical skill though. Maybe it is when (if) he does it.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meh, says a person writing editorials for the Telegraph.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But Williard Foxton is an "expert" he even wrote the 28 Days Later blog without knowing any html (it's about internet dating), although he's obviously wrong about algebra and programming.

    I can't remember that quadratic equation my maths teacher made us recite by rote, but I can still program html, php, javascript, perl and my children both under 10 have used a raspberry pi, the codecademy website tutorials and I'm pretty sure a grounding in the rules of programming any given language and the principles of logic is going to make any mathematical task easier.

    1. A Twig

      As a man who studied Law at UWE, then an MSc in "Business Entrepreneurship" at Bristol Uni (where he was incidentally in the Wargaming and Debating societies), then went straight into "media" - journalism and some fairly poor TV stuff - what in any way qualifies Willard Foxton to write such an "article"?

      Not only does his complete lack of relevance to the sphere make even Rory Cellan Jones seem qualified, it is arguable that his societal and study choices at University makes him more of an "exceptionally dull weirdo" than any of those he attempts to mock.

      And as he already started with the ad hominems, I'll continue with what in the hell sort of a name is Willard anyway?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        How very dare you! Willard Price was my favourite author when I was 9.

        1. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

          Logged in just to upvote you sir.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I'm still waiting for Coding Adventure, in which Hal takes down a scheming journalist armed only with a floppy disk labeled "node.js"

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Presumably in Coding Adventure, Hal and Roger have been sent in search of the lesser spotted furry geek, in order to capture a breeding pair for the Bronx Zoo.

            Looking back on those books, I really wonder that social services didn't get involved. Surely there must be some sort of child labour rules that outlaw sending a 15 year-old and 12 year-old hunting dangerous wild animals on their own. It makes sending kids up chimneys look positively benign...

      2. John 110


        What! That guy with the rats? I wouldn't upset him!!

        I for one welcome our ratty etc etc

  11. Evil Graham

    He's got a point

    Let's teach kids to pursue an interesting and worthwhile career in something more productive instead.

    Something noble that benefits humanity.

    Like journalism, perhaps.

    [With apologies to El Reg]

  12. DrStrangeLug

    No, this guys is right on the money. We shouldn't teach people to code.

    (Go with me on this guys, restriction of supply leads to increased demand . Less programmers higher wages)

    1. cyborg

      My experience would indicate inability to code isn't necessarily a barrier to employment as a coder.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
    3. Richard 81

      Also a few more bosses with at least a passing understanding of programming wouldn't go amiss.

    4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      > Less programmers higher wages.

      "I hear you wanna have plogam written? Me can do for cheap money."

      It's not like we are not already at the point where local development is actually far too expensive for the demands of the customer.


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