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.
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.
@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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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).
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-
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.
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.
@ 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.
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... ?
"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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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...
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