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
      Childcatcher

      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
        Boffin

        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
          Headmaster

          Re: algorithm != algebra

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

          http://www.und.nodak.edu/instruct/lgeller/algebra.html

          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
            Childcatcher

            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

    Fixed

    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

      [continued]

      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
        Coffee/keyboard

        Thank you, sir!

        Now i need a new keyboard.

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Trollface

        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
          Facepalm

          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
      Happy

      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
      Happy

      Re: I've said it before

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

  4. James Boag

    hmmmmmm

    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
    Pint

    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
        Pint

        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

          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
            Happy

            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
        Angel

        Willard

        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.

  13. A Twig

    Sorry, one more thing, "My Telegraph Blogs colleague Jack Rivlin is looking for a developer, and is frustrated because he can’t find one in Shoreditch" - much more a reflection on how much of a sham "Silicon Roundabout" is than a reflection of talent in the UK industry?

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      I bet he's found plenty of developers, but his idiotic "I'm gonna be RIIIICH" plan will be ill thought out, with no way of monetizing, require a huge amount of development, for which he is willing to offer only sweat capital.

      The funniest offer I got was when one of my cousins suggested that I act as his unpaid system architect and project manager, overseeing and directing a team of indian/chinese outsourced developers who would develop his "travel website". His "site" had no way of monetizing users apart from ads, and would be based around some magical algorithm for determining what you are after, which he hadn't yet come up with.

      Er. No thanks.

  14. Jon Green

    Coding's an essential life skill

    Sounds unreasonable? Not so much. You can't understand how web pages work without at least a basic comprehension of JavaScript. You can't set up anything more than the most basic web site without PHP or Python. And without understanding some elementary programming principles, you can't do much more in Excel than your daily expenses.

    Sure, if burger-flipping - or, apparently, writing clue-deprived op-ed pieces in the Torygraph - is your bag, that won't matter. But here's the thing: we teach our kids chemistry, geography, history, and much more like this. How many of them will become professional chemists, geologists or archaeologists? They're far more likely to end up doing some degree of coding at some point than any of these professions: programming is becoming a life skill. And yet - chemists need to create molecular simulations; geologists model stratigraphy for minerals discovery; archaeologists work with and understand geophysics plots, and process aerial images for suitable sites. If we don't train children to treat programming as a natural go-to skill (pun unintended) for solving problems, we tie one hand behind their back, and put a mitten on the other.

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: Coding's an essential life skill

      " And without understanding some elementary programming principles, you can't do much more in Excel than your daily expenses."

      I can't even do that in Excel. Life doesn't seem to have ground to a halt as a result.

      What seems to be being missed in general here is the value of the division and specialisation of labour.

      It's simply not necessary for everyone to know how to code (or program for those making the distinction) any more than it is for everyone to know how to mine for scandium or to write Telegraph OpEds.

      We only need enough people to have these skills to supply the desires of everyone for those outputs.

      I can see the value of people being exposed to all of these opportunities as children but on the strict understanding that those who burst into tears at the very thought of programming (or scandium or the Telegraph) don't have to do it anymore.

      " You can't understand how web pages work without at least a basic comprehension of JavaScript. You can't set up anything more than the most basic web site without PHP or Python."

      I have entirely no clue at all about any of those things: although I do know that the readership of this site contains many who do and thus I can go off and think about Sc and bemoan having been fired by the Telegraph.

      And as to Excel: no, really, how do you do anything at all in that?

      1. Tim99 Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Coding's an essential life skill

        @Tim Worstal

        " You can't understand how web pages work without at least a basic comprehension of JavaScript. You can't set up anything more than the most basic web site without PHP or Python."

        Bah, script kiddies...

        All you need is C and FastCGI - Link: fastcgi.com

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Coding's an essential life skill

      >>You can't understand how web pages work without at least a basic comprehension of JavaScript.

      Last I checked, web pages work perfectly well without Javascript. Just because it adds icing on top does not make it essential to the underlying http request/response model.

      >>You can't set up anything more than the most basic web site without PHP or Python.

      Really? So PHP and Python are the only languages that are used on web servers? That's news to me. Isn't Node.js written i Javascript? Can't web pages be written in ASP.net? What about JSP pages? What about Cold Fusion? What about Perl? What about [insert your favourite langauge here]?

      1. Stacy

        Re: Coding's an essential life skill

        I don't need to know about JavaScript to use a web page full stop.

        As for it not being needed... In this day and age I rather think you do.

        .Net has a wonderful toolbox for developers to use to get sites working. And these have a level of JavaScript for things like client side validation, buttons, input masks etc. Try to make something user friendly without using some kind of client side script to make the static html page dynamic.

        But still, you can use the site without knowing how it works.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Coding's an essential life skill

          > .Net has a wonderful toolbox for developers to use to get sites working.

          That is very deep in the Gravity Well of the Microsoft Dark Star. Stay away, you won't have enough delta-vee to ever get out again. It's for Volksgrenadiere not afraid to give up their soul, not for education.

          1. Stacy

            Re: Coding's an essential life skill

            I think you mis understood me... I was referring to the fact that someone said you need to understand JavaScript to use a web page, and someone else said you don't even need JavaScript to build a full featured site.

            I disagree with both statements.

            I'm still of the opinion that before they start kids on any programming language they need to start with getting them to think (see my earlier comment).

            As to what language to use in Schools? As many as possible! If you are going to be teaching programming then you also also teach them that the language is simply syntax (sure you need to know the underlying framework, but at this level I don't think that is the goal). Teach them to think about the language as a choice of tool for solving the problem they have been given.

            When I was first taught programming I went through Pascal, Ansi C, Assembly, some strange uni only language that was a mixture of Pascal and C and Java. Since leaving Uni I've been through Magic, Java, VB, and now code in C#. Who knows what I will be using in the future. I use MS technologies now, but that doesn't mean to say I wouldn't use anything else in the future - and the same goes for the other developers (some are using various other languages in private projects at the moment). To be honest, any type of evangelism for any coding language scares me - Microsoft or not... It means you automatically close out what could be the best solution to your problem.

  15. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Mushroom

    That guy doesn't even know what an ID10T error is

    I code,

    I teach,

    I even teach coding, if you must

    I actually teach programming, which only needs coding the way a car designer needs to know the best shape for a wheel. Coding is a tool to turn algorithms into programs, or put differently, to turn your thoughts into actions. The real hard work is to crack a problem, to define exactly what must be done to solve it. This is a skill that everybody needs at some level. Turning the result of that analysis into code is comparatively easy (but also teaches a high degree of discipline in execution, which isn't a bad lesson either).

    Regarding the idea of being an exceptionally boring weirdo:

    I have been called exceptionally loud/weird/funny/smart/tiresome and a whole lot of other things

    But never boring, never boring

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: That guy doesn't even know what an ID10T error is

      "I have been called exceptionally loud/weird/funny/smart/tiresome and a whole lot of other things"

      Being an introvert, I fall into the boring weirdo category, however I and my friends can be somewhat more lively with things in our sphere of interest. I've laughed and shared xkcd only to be met with blank stares.

      People, note well, we geeks are not boring weirdos at all. We just appear that way because it is US that find YOU boring.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That guy doesn't even know what an ID10T error is

        Not a personal attack (I'm in a similar situation to you) but saying you are an adult who likes comics hardly pushes you in tot he cool category.

  16. Wilco

    To be fair to the aforementioned cockwomble - lots of computer programmers are dull weirdos (probably including me). Lots of journalists are absolute arsehats. It's even possible that there is some relationship between dull weirdo-ness, or arsehattery, and suitability for a one career or another.

    However this seems to have no baring at all on whether or not it's a good idea to to teach kids some simple programming skills. This is self evidently a good idea - most of the kids will enjoy it, some of them will learn a bit about the workings of the tools that will be literally omnipresent throughout their lives, and a small percentage might find they want to take it further and learn some more. Some of those will be dull weirdos. At least they won't be wasting their time blogging for Torygraph

  17. John Deeb

    programming vs coding

    "Coding is a niche, mechanical skill, a bit like plumbing or car repair."

    Foxton is right, although it's unclear if he's aware how right he is. People should generally learn programming which is similar to thinking, analysing, applying logic and common sense. But the actual coding is really closer to something mechanical as it's possible to create unbelievable skilful code without addressing the problem more effectively than many other solutions. Endless tinkering, self-indulgance, and so on are very common with car repairs as well code monkeys. Or somethings the code doesn't even need to be made at all. A limited exposure to coding is good but it's not the main thing you want the general populace to sink their baby teeth in.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: programming vs coding

      Coding and mechanics are perfectly good things to teach to primary school children. Not because they'll learn coding and mechanics (although some will go on to do one or the other) but because the subjects themselves can be used to teach other important life skills like problem solving, logic, critical thinking, and so on.

      If Mr. Cockwomble can't see that, then that will all probability be a reflection of his own dullness, not that of computer programmers or mechanics (of which there are a great many dull people, me being amongst the first in the queue).

  18. Instinct46

    Idiot

    As I saw someone in the first few posts state that he'd learned to programming using turtle tiles in the 80s. I was in primary school in the 90s and I remember them giving us a robot that you could program (I believe it was based around the 80s turtle game) and see it wizz off everywhere.

    Given the state of technology, smart phones, smart TVs, smart Watches, computers... well you get what I'm getting at, I think it would be completely stupid not to know a programming language, even if that language would be something like HTML. Even one language gives you a basic understanding on how stuff functions and allows you to become a little more independent. This guy is obv one of those tards which have to be told to turn his computer on and off, or check that its plugged in.

    And yes he might be right, leave us alone and we'll talk to ourselves... just means we have enough intelligence to argue with ourselves, which helps us resolve issues about us.

    Teach prisoners how to program, I hope someone digitally robs the guy... (I know there are already criminals out there that can program).

    If I saw this man in the street I'd be likely to punch him.

  19. drdom

    I might be a dumb coder but I've already figured out how to connect his car to his plumbing system

  20. sarge

    What a tit!

  21. Salavora

    Don't teach a language, teach the logic.

    Teach the kids how to think through a problem step by step. How to write this down, so that one of their classmates could undertand it.

    Teach them how to create a Nassi-Shneidermann Diagram for example (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nassi%E2%80%93Shneiderman_diagram), and they will have a good building block for any kind of code later on.

    Maybee even integrate Lego-technic into the classroom. Build a roboter and programm it to drive in a circle.

  22. plrndl

    1. If coding were a mechanical skill, it would be done by computers, not humans.

    2. Since computer use is so pervasive, and getting more so, a basic understanding of coding could be considered as important as the traditional "3Rs". After all you don't just teach writing to writers, or arithmatic to mathematicians.

  23. Miek
    Linux

    "I'm all for people to learning to code" -- I'm all for people learning to read what they've written, but, as for everyone needing to learn to code, probably not necessary. Perhaps students could pick and mix modules for their Computing studies and tailor their course to suit their desired career paths, as there are many facets to the subject.

  24. kmac499

    Willard wasn't he in Eastenders?

    What a plonker..

    He's confusing education with vocational training.

    It's funny how a rounded knowledge of the Humanities, Arts and Sport is regarded as essential to personal development, even though the vast majority of us will never have any vocational use for any of these subjects.

    A common misconception in those with poor scientific or technological skills, particularly journalists, is that STEM subjects are not required to navigate daily life, often stated as a proud "I don't do maths".

    In both cases it is the associated skills of iteracy, numeracy, logical thought,criticism,appreciation etc. required to understand these subjects that form the basic unit of a rounded education, wrapped in a working knowledge of the world and society you live in..

    As for coding being a mechanical skill. Coding is as mechanical as stone masonry, weaving, cooking or any artisan trade, that wonderful combination of a core manual skill plus creative flair, some of which can only be truly appreciated by your peers..

    BTW I claim copyright on 'HARTS' as an acronym for Humanities, Arts and Sports subjects.. to run alongside STEM subjects.

    1. Radbruch1929

      Re: Willard wasn't he in Eastenders?

      > BTW I claim copyright on 'HARTS' as an acronym for Humanities, Arts and Sports subjects.. to run

      > alongside STEM subjects.

      Copyright challenged: This is just an abreviation and lacks originality. Of course you can shut me up by granting me and any of my successors and associates a free worldwide license to do with the term whatever we want ...

      > In both cases it is the associated skills of iteracy, numeracy, logical thought,criticism,appreciation etc.

      > required to understand these subjects that form the basic unit of a rounded education, wrapped in a

      > working knowledge of the world and society you live in..

      Agreed. Add to that the right to vote in a democracy and you see that driving the STEM subjects from school is going to result in tears. The voter needs to have at least a basic understanding when he votes on energy supply, environmental issues, infrastructure etc.

  25. DPWDC

    What are we doing leaving comments here?! We should be upvoting any comment with the term "cockwomble" in it over at the telegraph!

    1. James Hughes 1

      Bwahahahaha.

      My meme plan comes to fruition. (JamesH65)

    2. Tom 38 Silver badge

      We should be upvoting any comment with the term "cockwomble" in it over at the telegraph!

      Amusing as that would be, going to the article, repeatedly viewing the article, causing more ad impressions on the article page - these are all things which will recommend young Willard's story as an exceptional piece of work to his editor, who will reward him with more work.

  26. Steve Graham

    If more people had a grounding in basic code logic, TK-Maxx wouldn't get away with the slogan "Always up to 60% cheaper."

  27. NogginTheNog
    Thumb Down

    Don't play the game

    Journo writes provocative article to gain eyeballs. This is news?

  28. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    maybe economics instead

    Mr. Rivlin would benefit more from an economics class that he might take than from any number of programming classes for the youth of Great Britain. Offer more money, Mr. Rivlin, and the problem will take care of itself.

  29. bag o' spanners
    Devil

    As a demolition expert/ tester, I quite like dev corner at the big software conflabs. They give amusing presentations, which reduce the boredom factor, and they don't try to sell me anything, or bore me insane with buzzspeak. They also know how to consume the shmoozables without acting like drunk schoolkids. Weird they may be, but I don't care too much for those glassy-eyed normals anyway.

    Our education system is currently churning out halfwits who don't understand the concepts of critical thinking, or causality and the logical processes involved in determining how and why things break.. Sadly, they seem to gravitate to the public sector.

  30. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    I have a non-algebraic program for him:

    10 take your ill informed self important idiotic opinion

    20 shove it up your arse

    30 goto 10

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wow, what a clueless douchebag.

    He's right about one thing though, it is a niche skill. Few people can code, of which a small subset can code well. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people I've worked with over the years whose code I respect. Perhaps that's down to the sector I'm in.

    It's the very opposite of mechanical though. Coding (at least the variety I've been involved with) requires a surprising amount of art if it's not to turn out to be bloated, bug-ridden garbage. Producing elegant code using appropriate technology is what differentiates good coders from bad.

  32. Brian Miller Silver badge

    Don't teach it, just let it be available

    Don't bother teaching it. If the young chaps wants to learn it, just make it available. Have some good books.

    I started learning on a Commodore PET 2001N, before I was in high school. Nobody taught me a thing, I learned it all from reading books. Yes, books, those things with real paper. That's all that's needed, just the computer and books. The kids that want to learn it will learn it, despite the best efforts made to keep them from it.

    Should programming be taught to all students in the general education curricula? No. There's no point to that. It's not a mechanical skill, it does take talent, and being educated in writing software doesn't mean that someone can actually do it. There are ever so many college graduates with a big fancy degree who can't write good code!!

    The only thing that should be done is set up computers and let the kids who want to learn have a go at them. "Schooling" is factory teaching, placing people on an assembly line of so-called education. At the end, everybody is supposed to be equal. Sorry, real life and real people aren't like that. Writing software takes a special knack, and that's all there is to it.

    1. Vanir

      Re: Don't teach it, just let it be available

      <There are ever so many college graduates with a big fancy degree who can't write good code!!>

      And...

      There are ever so many coders with-out a big fancy degree who can't write good code!!

      Nor write good documentation either.

      Nor produce good specifications from requirements documents.

      Nor produce good designs from those specs.

      Good code - a rigorous, logical platitude is that.

  33. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Meh

    OTOH Some say the best programmers can write equally well structured essays.

    Or as one (Japanese) programmer put it "The 1st programming language any programmer needs to be able to write properly is Japanese."

    So IDK, maybe a bit better teaching of English first? Perhaps one or two concepts of grammar maybe?

    1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Re: OTOH Some say the best programmers can write equally well structured essays.

      I think that it was Dijkstra who said that mathematical maturity and the ability to express oneself clearly in one's native language were indispensable.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: OTOH Some say the best programmers can write equally well structured essays.

        "I think that it was Dijkstra who said that mathematical maturity and the ability to express oneself clearly in one's native language were indispensable."

        My quote came from a book called "Peopleware."

        But it seems almost no one has ever heard of it.

  34. Boring Weirdo Willard

    Comment from the Cockwomble in question

    Hey all,

    I am the cockwomble who wrote the original piece. Just wanted to chip into the thread and give you all a bit of explanation. Yes - you're offended, I get it. I deliberately wrote the piece to get a reaction from the developer community, and raise awareness of the way the ICT curriculum is changing to making coding mandatory.

    Yes, I use deliberately evocative and provocative language. I called you all "boring weirdos". As commenters have pointed out, as a fan of warhammer 40k, World of Warcraft, not to mention online dating, I'm a weirdo, and yes, I'm boring. If you're neither boring, nor a weirdo, then great. The reason that line was there was to draw people into the article. I knew the general reader would look at it and think "Stereotype, check", and the Dev community would be annoyed. I perhaps underestimated just *how* annoyed or offended... If you were personally offended, then I apologise.

    Some people have commented that the article is deliberately written to be trolling clickbait to raise advertising revenue from page views; with only one ad per page, and people (especially developers) less likely to click on a banner ad than to summit Everest, I'm sure you can divine that's not the purpose. Even if it was, how many people go "I'M FURIOUS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE! Ooooh, a new Mazda is out!"? There's no premium on low traffic or high traffic writers at the Telegraph, so it wouldn't benefit me either way.

    So why did I include the "boring weirdos" line? The article was intended to be challenging - offensive even - for the sole purpose of getting people to read it and think about whether or not kids should be taught to code. My personal opinion is that the new curriculum (it's here if you want to read it: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-i-the-order-for-replacing-ict-with-computing-and-ii-the-regulations-for-disapplying-aspects-of-the-existing-national-curriculum) is far too ambitious, and teaches the wrong skills. It's more likely to put kids off learning to code than bring them into it. I think it will be hard to train every primary teacher in the country in the two programming languages the curriculum requires.

    Some have questioned whether there's really a crisis in ICT and IT teaching, as I claimed. In the last Ofsted figures, a fifth of ICT lessons were seen as poor, and barely half were rated good or better. (Source:http://t.co/MpwuihnZQI). if you're familiar with Ofsted, you'll know teaching has to practically negligent to rate as poor.

    Speaking to people in the tech industry, and in University Computer science departments, they tell me they are worried about the people coming through the system. This year, only 4,000 people out of 300,000 took computing at A-level - less than 2%. Most people who go on to study at University are self-taught hobbyists (Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/9600921/Computer-programming-who-is-teaching-our-children-to-code.html).

    In the background of a fifth of our schools failing their pupils in this area, you have to ask if Gove’s proposals are feasible - especially as they go much further than the current curriculum and require a legion of teachers to be retrained. There's a seeming tension between identifying a problem like this and saying "don't teach our kids to code". However the problem I see is that the current (relatively undemanding) IT curriculum is being badly taught across the board. I just don't see how the new, fantastically ambitious one, can be implemented successfully.

    Yes, there are excellent teaching resources like Scratch, that teach the fundamentals in a more interesting and fun way, However, assuming that primary teachers can just make the time to fit learning these to a suitable standard to be able to teach them into their existing workload is arguably, just as insulting as my "boring weirdo" line both to those teachers (I don't know a single primary school teacher who would have the time to do that, and you can guarantee they won't be given any assistance in doing so - when teaching other languages was mooted for primary schools it was decided that teachers would be able to "pick it up to a suitable standard to teach" with a single half-day course) and to people who do programme (that their subject is so simple and uncomplicated that it can be picked up in no time at all, to a standard suitable for teaching, by pretty much anybody).

    Yes, coding and programming are useful skills with applications in other areas, but there are only so many hours in the school day. How on earth you can write a coding syllabus that is teachable in multiple ability classrooms all over the UK, that won't be so out of date that what the students are being taught would have absolutely no relevance anyway.

    Yes, general programming principles are (largely) transferable between computer languages but please don't underestimate the ability of students to be completely put off. A lot of commentators assume it's easy to transfer a skill (E.g., planning and writing a programme) from one language to another; in fact, for the large majority of the population (and particularly, though not exclusively, young people), that simply is not the case. Equally, while coding can be a good way of teaching skills like critical thinking and problem solving, it's neither the only, nor necessarily the best way of doing so.

    So whilst I'm sure there are some students who would be able to benefit from such education, I also know that at least an equally large number would not, would not be interested in the slightest (no matter how the subject is presented), and that getting an already overworked primary school teacher to try and teach a completely unfamiliar subject to a class of 30 comprising both extremes of ability and interest is simply not going to work. At all. And worse, I suspect it will probably be counter-productive, potentially turning off any interest in the subject for some who might otherwise have benefited.

    I think the better way to do it is through the existing volunteer architecture, through schemes like Code Club. Indeed, I fear that the excellent volunteer efforts will be choked off if it becomes a compulsory subject - as has happened to some extent with debating since it was included as a mandatory part of citizenship classes.

    I considered, but eventually rejected the following paragraph (for reasons of length):

    "The teaching skills gap is supposed to be filled by people coming in from industry, volunteering their time to teach teachers and pupils. The success of brilliant schemes like Code Club is held up as an example of how that can happen. However, Code Club is an outlier - there's a big difference between teaching a room full of motivated kids who want to be there, and teaching the average class on a wet Wednesday. Indeed, there's a big difference for the IT professional volunteering their time if they are greeted by an enthusiastic teacher-hobbyist, or a sour faced teaching unions reps in their mid-fifties, who think the whole thing is a Tory plot to take their jobs."

    I sort of regret leaving that out - although I'm sure the extra insults to teachers wouldn't have helped my cause.

    Several of the Code Club volunteers - notably @tef and @mattbee got in touch and called me out for calling them and their students "boring weirdos" - both wrote excellent pieces about why I'm wrong and a massive tool to boot. However, I honestly wrote the piece because I think what they are doing is infinitely better than what the Government has proposed. @Tef told me Code Club has 500 schools on the waiting list - if you hate me, and the article, and think kids *should* learn to code, and want to push back on the stereotypes I was perpetuating, then the best way of showing that is by signing up with them.

    I set out to create a debate around the issue - by challenging what I saw as an orthodoxy around teaching ALL kids to code. I think it's a bad idea - and I made the point in a provocative way. I'm sorry if that fucked you off. I can guarantee more of the Dev community knows about the proposed curriculum after the article than before hand. If I get a @ mentions feed full of hate, and a dozen angry devs join Code Club, job done.

    Obviously, I'd prefer not to have my house burned down (as someone threatened last night), but them's the lumps.

    Regards, Willard

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

      tl;dr

      1. Oh Homer Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

        @Tom 38: "tl;dr"

        Yes, you'd think a newspaper hack would have learnt how to summarise.

        Here's my executive summary of his excuses explanation, paraphrased: "It wasn't click-bait. Honest. I was just being deliberately provocative in order to get people to read my propaganda article."

        Erm...

    2. snim2

      Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

      This might sound surprising to you, but it is actually possible to start a debate and get people to read an article without directly humiliating them. You might actually get somewhere positive by having some respect for your audience and they might be more inclined to have a rational discussion with you.

      Yes.

      REALLY.

    3. Irony Deficient

      effectiveness of provocation

      Willard, making your point in a provocative way may well be useful in creating a debate, but the debate will almost certainly be distracted, if not completely detoured, by the particular provocation itself. (Compare Femen: they make their point in a provocative way, but how much debate is focused on their point rather than on their provocation?) If you honestly desire to create a debate that will last beyond the shelf life of a newspaper issue, please stick to the boring weirdo method of focusing on relevant subjects, so that discussions will be concentrated on what matters, rather than on what doesn’t.

      Sincerely,

      Boring Weirdo several timezones west of Tunbridge Wells.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: effectiveness of provocation

        Cockwomble.

        As other have said - you don't need to insult people to start a debate. That fact that you had to do so means, to me, that your journalistic skills are somewhat lacking.

        There are many many people who could take your place if all it takes is a insult here or an insult there. So I would suggest that instead of writing to alienate, write to educate, although I fear that may be beyond you.

    4. Jamie Jones Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

      Willard, I appreciate your detailed post.

      It would be so much easier to hide behind the newspaper and maybe censor comments you don't like.

      I have gained more respect for you, throwing yourself to the wolves like this.

      You also make some very good points, but as others have pointed out, the insults and stereotypes seemed like trolling - however, your point is noted -- would this Register article even be here otherwise?

      Cheers,

      Jamie

    5. John 156

      Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

      "This year, only 4,000 people out of 300,000 took computing at A-level - less than 2%."

      So only 2% of the school population wasted their time on that particular non-academic subject. I would recommend that the best A levels for Computer science or any other branch of engineering or physics, is 2 maths and one physics. Michael Gove should ensure that schools are able to teach those properly and leave it at that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: John 156

        >> the best A levels for Computer science or any other branch of engineering or physics, is 2 maths and one physics <<

        I strongly disagree. I've been working in software development for over 25 years and I've never needed anything that I was taught in A level maths. To try and restrict software engineers to those that are good at advanced maths is a terrible idea, you would exclude a lot of people who would make good programmers. That's why a specific coding exam would be worthwhile (I'm not saying there is currently such an exam, but it's not 2 maths A levels and one phsyics!)

      2. John 48

        Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

        Computer science taught properly is far from "non academic". Its a rigorous and broad syllabus (not to be confused with computer studies, or ICT).

        Its also worth highlighting that maths and physics, while very worthwhile subjects in their own right, are not in any way prerequisites for computer science. Yes there are some specialised areas of software development that require strong mathematical skills,. however most don't.

        Successful software development can draw on many skills and aptitudes - many creative as well as hard science based. A maths degree is not going to make you a wizard at good user interface design.

    6. Vic

      Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

      > I deliberately wrote the piece to get a reaction from the developer community

      The real *knack* of getting the reaction you want from any community is not to be an arrogant twat whose ignorance of the subject in question cannot be measured owing to a world-wide shortage of numbers that big...

      Vic.

    7. HippyFreetard

      Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

      All kids need to be taught to read and write. They also all need basic maths skills.

      I actually think every primary-school child should also be taught the basics of cooking, sewing, first aid, drawing, woodworking, electronics, and coding. All this stuff is very practical and hands-on, fun, and variable to interest. A basis like this in primary would lead to a better serving of STEAM subjects in high school.

      And the future really is STEAM. The kind of jobs schools traditionally prepared people for are going fast. Engineers, artists, scientists, etc will be the only real industry left. Coding is used across the STEAM spectrum.

      Coding is where literacy was not so long ago. Only the rich and powerful could afford to do it, and the masses were ripped off by churches and governments. (Okay, they're still doing it, but at least we know that now!) Coding should not be allowed to remain with that elite status.

    8. Geoff Campbell
      Pirate

      Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

      Ah, right. So you wanted to generate a debate, and figured doing so by insulting people was the best way?

      Given you are a professional writer, I'm *astonished* that no-one has ever told you that cheap insults are lazy writing. But then, looking at the quality of your writing, perhaps I'm not that astonished, after all.

      For the record, having been in the industry for thirty years, I'm proud and humbled by just how many extraordinary people I have met who work alongside me keeping the 21st century on track.

      GJC

    9. James Micallef Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

      "However the problem I see is that the current (relatively undemanding) IT curriculum is being badly taught across the board. I just don't see how the new, fantastically ambitious one, can be implemented successfully."

      This is spot-on. It's not so much a matter of "what's the ideal?" as "what's achievable?". i'm all for setting high standards and targets, but without overreaching.

      Also as an aside, I think that changing the curriculum as an answer to the current curriculum being poorly implemented is a very "governmental-style" solution, akin to introducing new laws as a solution to current laws not being enforced.

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

      No you didn't, Willard, any more than Max Gogarty wrote his infamous gap year blog with the deliberate intention of getting flamed by thousands of readers.

      You got pwned, pure and simple.

    11. Goldmember

      Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

      I actually didn't take issue with the term "boring weirdos", as many people have stereotypical views of us programmers (or any other type of "IT Geek"), and using these in a provocative way, I'm sure, appeals to a certain demographic. Personally, that type of "ooh look at me, look how controversial I am" journalism certainly does nothing for me, but then again I'm not a Telegraph reader. It was clearly an attempt to provoke a reaction from within the tech community, which it did. It also spawned various articles in tech news publications, which helped your cause. You don't need to pretend reader numbers aren't important to you, though.

      What I did take issue with was the overall view that teaching coding to all kids shouldn't be done. You were right in pointing out that the current system is broken. But relying on after school, extra curricular "clubs" to instill the coding "bug" is not the way forward. I'd also agree that early primary school is too young for coding (5-7 year olds), but basic computer science and coding should be included in all early high school teaching years, and possibly even later primary school years. Children should be taught what goes on behind the scenes when the power button on their laptop is pressed, as well as how it's possible for their favourite website to appear on the screen.

      Telling us it's a waste of time trying to teach all kids to code is like saying we shouldn't make all kids sit through PE, art, geography, history etc. for some of their academic lives. Of course a portion of them are going to hate it, as I hated PE and religious education when I was at school, but once they reach the third year of high school (or "year 9" as it's now known), they can bin off the subjects they no longer want. I don't see how programming and advanced computing is any different. How are those kids with a knack for coding going to know about it, if they aren't exposed to it in some way?

    12. Squander Two

      Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

      I understand and appreciate the point about insulting people in journalism to get a rise and start a debate, but I don't think you can have it both ways. If you're going to insult someone, suck it up and fucking insult them. Then, when they object, you can back down and apologise and say you were wrong, or you can ignore them, or you can double down and insult them some more. You know, behave like you actually mean what you're writing. Insulting people and then, when they object, protesting, "Oh, but that was my journalism, not my real opinion," is pathetic. My problem here isn't that you're insulting coders; it's that you're insulting readers, by publicly claiming to not really mean the stuff you write for them. Can anyone imagine one of the great opinion writers like Christopher Hitchens or Julie Birchill doing this? "Sorry if you were offended, Archbishop, but I didn't actually mean any of those things I said about Christianity." Feh. If you want to adopt a persona, fine: adopt it. Properly.

      Incidentally, I meet loads of boring weirdos in IT, and they all meet at least one too.

      1. David Glasgow

        Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

        Upvoted. Good point, well made.

    13. Jim 59

      Re: Comment from the Cockwomble in question

      How much time did Foxton spend on this reply vs the original article ?

      Such long winded concern for education. All a child would learn from reading Foxton's original article is that education and qualifications should be treated with contempt. Base.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is not about Programming Stupid

    It is all about problem solving

    something that isn't taught anymore even at University.

    Take one Graduate I interviewed last month. 1st Class Hons Degree in Comp Sci. I asked him to solve a relatively simple problem and how his solution could be tested.

    Total and abosolute failure.

    Despite being a total cockwomble there is IMHO a modicm of truth behind some of what he is saying.

  36. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    algorithms before algebra?

    Why not?

    Basically, what is an algorithm, besides a series of self-contained logical steps, including the idea of decision points (conditionals) and looping? Leaving aside other practical issues like input/output and variables or data structures, that boils down to only three very simple concepts, which should be very easy to teach and demonstrate, whether it's with flowcharts, traditional programming languages, or hybrid pedagogic languages like Squeak.

    Even these simple concepts don't have to be introduced formally and all at once. Lesson plans can be structured in such a way that kids are learning these concepts before they even see a flowchart or whatever. Take something like teaching them about quotients and remainders by repeated division (which can be taught with physical props or analogies, such as a string on a spool). You can gauge their grasp of the concepts by asking them simple questions like "what's our next step here", "are we finished yet", "how many times did we wind the string", "how much string is on the spool", "how long is the rest of it", and so on. Later, you can ask the same questions in the context of a simple flowchart and show that the two approaches are identical.

    If kids had a basic idea of what an algorithm is in these terms, who's to say that it's not going to make it easier for them to get a handle on what's going on when they come to study algebra? Many topics in algebra have natural algorithmic counterparts. For example: positional number systems (dealing with carries, doing long multiplication/division), solving simultaneous equations (with matrices and Gaussian elimination), affine transformations (possibly using iterated function systems as a fun diversion), solving single equations (Newton's method, or simply using a computer program to graph the equation; also Logo-like languages and tools--like DrGeo, for example--in general are a handy tool for learning trigonometry), symbolic calculus (though I think that Prolog-like languages might be a bit too advanced) and so on. This may not suit everybody, but I think that at least giving kids the basic tools, and tailoring the teaching methods that work best for different groups of students, you're much more likely to get students to understand maths and algebra and get much better results as a consequence. At least a multi-stranded approach has more of a chance to engage kids' imagination and critical faculties.

    /€0.02

  37. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Pint

    The last

    damn thing I want is more bleeding coders

    Takes long enough to hammer the basics of controling the robots into a 17 yr old brain first without having to remove whatever 'coding' or 'programing' they've done first

    Take a simple safety routine of querying the PLC bits for guarding and if the machine is a safe state to start.

    Said 17 yr old will write a routine that queries each of the 16 bits in turn, then get upset when I punch him in the face and tell him to use a 16 bit AND function to test all the bits at once because its way quicker than asking the plc for 16 different items to return.

    Also its a good point to remember that the world is divided into 2, those who can code... and those that mock those who can code.

    Gawd I'm getting grumpy on a friday

    1. SolidSquid

      Re: The last

      Sounds like it's less a case of them being incompitent and more you not explaining properly the differences between hardware and software programming. Just because some aspects of programming software carry over, doesn't mean that there aren't important differences between the two

  38. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Brave words spoken by someone who has never plumbed in a new water heater or changed out a clutch. I doubt he knows one end of a python script from another either (I'm told python is the new education darling in the computer world).

    You know what is a real niche job these days? Newspaper journalist. Especially shirt-thick newspaper journalist who cannot make a point without stupidly insulting those people who make his world work so well he doesn't need a shovel when he goes for a crap or a horse if he wants to get out of town for a bit.

  39. Florida1920 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    In urinalism you can make up neologisms, scramble syntax,grammar and spelling to you're hart's content, deer, and be called creative. Coding is a discipline. No wonder Foxtongue has to attack it.

  40. This post has been deleted by its author

  41. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    plumbing and car mechanics

    I'm not a plumber or a car mechanic, but I know enough to turn off at the main to stop a flood, and change a wheel. These are basic life-skills, and, with the number of digital devices we have nowadays, so is programming.

    I'm reminded of a Monty-Python sketch, a world of Supermen, where the skills of Mr. Bicycle Repairman were much needed.

  42. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Personally, I think learning to write code or queries is a pretty useful skill to have

    It's all about logical construction, which is a good general skill to encourage in students.

    Sounds like the writer at The Telegraph learned about coding and software developers from "Everything I Ever Learned About Technology I Picked Up From Reading Dilbert"

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The point is that 9 out of 10 kids won't continue with coding but you find the 1 person who will at an early age and give them a head start.

    Computers aren't going away, we need some basic grasp of how they work.

  44. Will 28

    I want to meet the interesting people

    I'm happy to accept I'm dull, though Willard's post here already shows that he was just using that term to provoke. However what I really don't get, is that for all the people that do genuinely look on me as a geek, or a dull wierdo, is what do they do that's so interesting?

    Are these people arriving at work riding a kangaroo? Do they enter the office jumping from a plane, then parachute in through the 5th floor window? What do they do???

    If you're interesting, or know anyone who is interesting, please write to me with the answer at "this post, the register forums, Vulture Central, London".

  45. Katie Saucey
    WTF?

    "..As a subject, it only appeals to a limited set of people"

    I agree, and as a subject scatological studies apply to limited numbers as well, did I miss this guys point (possibly because his profession as well only applies to limited set)?

  46. phil_bennett

    The Government wants to teach all children English. Here is why it’s a stupid idea!

    Some of my developer friends have been looking for a good journalist, they are perfect examples of why our kids don’t work for the Telegraph. They’re driven, articulate, incredibly intelligent individuals stoking the fires of an industry that could help take this country back to the financial power house it once was. Rather than attention seeking guff pedlars, like the bulk of all Journalists.

    I’m all for people learning English – I once read a poem by Dylan Thomas that was incredibly good, and I sure I remember once reading a newspaper article written for the benefits of the reader that didn’t try to perpetuate social stereotypes in order to get a few clicks for advert impressions. I do however think we need to be aware of it’s limitations.

    English is a quaint, peculiar, dated skill. A bit like flower arranging, and competitive gurning. Now I’m not saying it doesn’t have it’s place in the modern world. Fanciful collections of stories correlated into one tome provide millions of the UKs newspaper readers with solace and entertainment daily.

    There is a reason the inspiring ‘Start-Up’ generation of terrifyingly driven, talented, young developers frequently hire the skills of these ‘English Practitioners’ to help them embellish the textual promotional material they need to excite their potential customers. But if you leave a Journalist on his own he’ll start creating works of pure fantasy that perpetuate a significantly damaging stereotype.

    ==

    English isn’t for everyone, personally I’m dyslexic. Written English was a phenomenal struggle for me going through school. I just couldn’t do it, I was incredibly lucky and both my parents where software engineers I was exposed to software development quite young, and I absolutely hated it. It was too easy.

    I then proceeded to shun developing in favour a more scientific educational and career path. But it just kept coming back, the nagging feeling that most of the challenges I was presented could be made significantly easier with a bit of coding. I became passionate about solving problems, with code.

    It’s unsurprising I came to that conclusion, seeing as the rest of the world did as well. If it wasn’t for developers your life would be significantly harder and quite a lot shitter. It’s not even worth pointing out anymore that almost all of the human race come into contact with the output of a developer almost every minute of their day.

    But there simply isn’t enough of us, and this is partially due to a lack of exposure during this countries children’s most character forming years. I’m not going to pretend I pay much attention to the state of Education in this country, but I have a number of teachers in my social group (yes, I’m a developer and I have friends.. shocking) and am very aware that this Gove bloke isn’t entirely popular. Exposing children to a skill that touches almost every aspect of modern life is essential. Yes some will detest it, some will struggle, some will find it boring. However I’m sure most people can relate the same feeling to Maths, English or Drama everyone has ‘that’ subject at school they dreaded.

    But creating a realistic ICT curriculum that shows what amazing things can be achieved with code. Also without trying to sound shallow, what amazing amount of money can be made. Is a must for this countries economy. Some of them will even enjoy it.

    But a more significant problem is the perpetuation in the media that developers are predominantly ‘dull weirdos’; overweight blokes with no social skills who go home at night and wank over Princess Leia. This doesn’t entirely make for visions of an appealing workplace does it?

    Now stereotypes happen for a reason, and yes the industry does attract social introverts who have a passion for expressing themselves by creating amazing software, forging their identities as ‘future wizards’ with very little concern for social chest beating. These guys and girls communicate with the 0′s and 1′s of the software and make some beautiful things. But to survive the software industry in this country needs balance, it needs people who can understand both the technical side and the personal side, the code and the business. We need leaders who can knock up a prototype app before lunch then wow the board of directors in the afternoon.

    There is a place in my industry for everyone and crap like this is damaging.

    -------

    From my blog (which I actually created specifically to write this post)

    http://philbennettcoder.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/the-government-want-to-teach-all-children-english-here-is-why-its-a-stupid-idea/

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: The Government wants to teach all children English. Here is why it’s a stupid idea!

      Nice one, phil_bennett.

      And aint We need leaders who can knock up a prototype app before lunch then wow the board of directors in the afternoon the GOD's aweful truth.:-)

      GOD = Global Operating Device.

  47. Andus McCoatover

    ... understand the definition of an algorithm .. before they are due to be taught algebra...

    Try this:

    (Algorithm)

    If (I_am_Good == TRUE)

    then Chocolate

    Else:

    Brusell Sprouts.

    (Algebra)

    (ax*ax) + bx +c ? "meh...So what?"

    "seven to 11 year-olds will have to code programs "in at least two programming languages"."

    Pisser, that. My son was fluent in both Finnish and English when he was about 10, then started Swedish and German. He wants to tackle Russian next, fluency before he's 16. Exceptional? No, not really.

    Oh, and his bit about teaching (computing) in prisons? Didn't think stripey-shirted guests could get access to internet (which they WILL need to program anything more complex than an 8-string rosary bead processor (Abacus?)

    No, I'm no coder. I just use Python (BASIC for Geeks)

  48. agricola
    Boffin

    There's a REALLY GOOD point HERE; It simplyneeds to be better articulated.

    I think the commenter might be confusing opportunity with mandatory requirement.

    There's no question but that there is a desperate need to teach our children how to best handle the teaching of this "new" technology, There's also no question that the way it's been handled so far is an absolute disaster.

    The reasons for all this and the methods to combat it MUST be revolutionary and are too important to be left to professional "educators" and pedagogues.

    ;

    My suggestion is very complicated: it's called 'Back to the Basics Plus Two": back to 'readin', writin', and 'rithmatic, PLUS a very strong dose of DISCIPLINE and LOGIC.

    You'd be amazed at what young people would accomplish under this regimen, and out from under the thumbs of "professional educators".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's a REALLY GOOD point HERE; It simplyneeds to be better articulated.

      "My suggestion is very complicated: it's called 'Back to the Basics Plus Two": back to 'readin', writin', and 'rithmatic, PLUS a very strong dose of DISCIPLINE and LOGIC.

      You'd be amazed at what young people would accomplish under this regimen, and out from under the thumbs of "professional educators"."

      Sounds dangerously right wing to me (in fact, it sound dangerously French), but I like it. It's getting high time we cut the crap out of education. Not to mention the choice. I don't get the choice thing. Cut the crap and, IMHO, you don't need to give everyone choice.

  49. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    job protection

    He's just worried he'll be replaced by a very small shell script.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who coding isn't for.....

    Well coding certainly isn't for the kind of person who took a three year computer science degree, and has been trying to convince the world he (Why is it always a he?) is not terribly technical ever since. For everyone else, I think it's probably ok.

  51. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    ICT != Coding

    "Coding is a niche, mechanical skill, a bit like plumbing or car repair."

    EXACTLY! It doesn't help that governments, teaching unions and teachers have been deliberating confusing the difference between ICT ("driving") and coding ("automotive mechanics").

  52. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    "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;-)."

    Same here pretty much -- we took a typing class, luckily they still had like 1 or 2 IBM Selectrics left when I took it (which have a keyboard very similar to the IBM Model M), instead of having to type on the dreadful keyboards the Macs were saddled with (not as bad as the current ones, but the bumps were still on the wrong keys.)

    As for learning languages -- First, I was required to take music and art classes I had absolutely zero use for, so I don't see a problem with some introductory computing classes. It'll stop people from thinking the computer runs from magic, and give them some vague idea of what is happening in there. On the other hand, I'm not going to get all worked up if they don't have it either, I've talked to people who just cannot follow even a brief bit of logic ('if x is true then y is true'... will go right over their head), and for these people it's a waste of time, they could spend all semester trying to write up a loop to print their name 10 times and probably not succeed.

  53. ewozza
    Angel

    Prostitution may have been the first profession, but software development will be the last. When they don't need us anymore, the machines will be thinking for themselves, and the age of employment shall be well and truly over.

    Everyone should be *exposed* to software development - if someone has the knack, its a wonderful skill - it gives you a level of empowerment and control over the electronic toys in our life which few others achieve

    But very few people will be drawn to coding - if you don't have the "dull weirdo" mindset, it just won't interest you.

    Which is rather a shame, because in a few years, there may be precious little else to do, if you want to earn a living.

    We live in an age where cars can drive themselves, where CNC metal working machines have replaced entire teams of skilled craftsmen, where rules engines diagnose disease with inhuman skill, where every profession is slowly being encroached by artificial intelligence.

    In a few years, the blessed things will even start to have *ideas* - so what will you do then, ideas man?

    Coding skill is a hedge against a future of unemployment - but only for those who love to code.

  54. Number6

    It doesn't have to just be the dull weirdos, some quite entertaining ones can write code too.

    Anyway, coding is the last[*] stage of a much bigger process - in order to write code, one has to have given some thought to what the finished item is supposed to do and how to do it. It's often done by breaking things into ever smaller blocks until the coding side of things becomes relatively trivial because the block complexity is low. Algorithms are the key.

    Not everyone has a brain suitable for writing software. In the same way that we're not all great artists, musicians and theoretical physicists, some people find it hard to handle the mindset required for good code design. So no, it shouldn't be forced on every child, because to some it will not be relevant, but ICT should be far more than just learning how to drive MS Word, Powerpoint and Excel, which is what it seems to have become.

    [*] Not strictly true, testing, debugging and verification should all come afterwards. If you get it right first time, the debugging can be skipped.

  55. Zot

    Coding is a tool.

    A sculptor uses the best tools he can find to make the things he imagines, the tools are a necessary path to the final product, not the product itself. Some programmers just spend all day looking at the tools and choosing the chisel type and hammer. Dull indeed. : p

    If the final products can be vaguely reverse engineered in lessens it would be much more entertaining and interesting for teaching as a whole. And create a backward journey down in to the more complex processes of computer algorithms. Instead of starting at the 0s and 1s stage. It might get more people interested from the start.

    Programming is NOT about programming, it's about building and creating something much bigger.

  56. lombardox

    Let's face it, the stereotypical geek exists but to characterise these people as 'dull weirdos' is shallow. Often they're very interesting and funny people albeit without great social skills. Also as has been pointed out IT is not just about coding - hordes of people are employed in network support, design, sales, accounting, even HR (who'd have thunk it?). Some of the dullest people I've met in IT were coked up marketing twats.

    Part of the probIem (if the problem is that aren't there are swarms of Linus Torvalds-alikes) in the UK is that programming is considered an entry level job. In my experience unless they are very dedicated to coding, most people, once the novelty has worn off, soon try to climb the greasy poll - senior dev, team lead, dev manager, department manager because that's the only way to increase your take home. Others will become business analysts or project managers for the same reasons. Quite a few of the people I know who joined the industry in the late 90's on the back of the dot com boom, have left for completely unrelated careers (not due to lack of skill - just lack of interest).

    Not sure what qualifies this guy to comment on coding or education anyway. Does he have experience of either? Seems like more silicon roundabout waffle.

  57. Benjol

    Taste of own medicine?

    I find the wafer-thin-skin reactions to being 'insulted' here mildly bemusing. After all, stupid insults 'in the interests of a good story' are pretty much the stock-in-trade of El Reg, aren't they?

    I mean, if someone had written a similar story here about 'boring teachers', I can't imagine many commentards batting an eyelid before piling in with a chorus of 'ayes'.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Taste of own medicine?

      El Reg is reporting on an article on the Telegraph website, so little point in bringing up El Reg's stock in trade, which appears to be irrelevant.

  58. Downside

    Good work fella

    As most coding jobs have (and continue) to go abroad (India, Czech Republic, Poland.. next stop Ukraine), he's got a point.. why try to force the reluctant to try yet another skill they'll find dull, resent and ultimately despise, both the subject and the exponents of it? There's precious little work in the UK for any decent money, as most of it has been offshored.

    We'd be better off teaching bricklaying as (in case you hadn't noticed) the standard of work provided by builders is expensive and shocking. Just add a bit of gravel and concrete into the sandpit and tell the kids they've only got a few hours to play with the lego while it's still "workable".

  59. philipcj

    Coding is a fundamental tech skill. Not everybody needs to know how to do it, just like not everybody needs to know how to fix their car. But we need to teach the basics in schools so the child can find out if they are interested in it, and we as a nation can find more coders at as young an age as possible, e.g. 16. Because if we don't, there are thousands of people in India and China who are learning this skill, and who in decades to come will allow companies in their countries to leave the west for dead in growth just through sheer numbers of people working in this area. We need more coders, not less, to create the Googles and Amazon's of tomorrow.

  60. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Coding vs Writing - which is the dull mechanical skill?

    You start off with a set of results you want to achieve. These depend on each other and on external factors. You arrange them in the correct logical sequence, reference the external factors, and connect everything together. If this doesn't produce the required output, you go through making adjustments and re-ordering until it does. Finally, you make sure that it's all syntactically valid and easy to follow.

    A generalised description of coding, or possibly of journalistic writing. (If you're a great author there's probably a bit more to it, though I love the idea of Finnegan's Wake as the literary equivalent of obfuscated Perl.)

  61. Don Jefe

    Teaching Activities

    There was a time, ages ago it seems, when schools didn't specialize in churning out deplorably useless children, in fact their mission was quite the opposite. Look at the 60+ crowd, they might not be able to do much in the way of algebra, but I bet they can all make fucking change and read a ruler. Their math skills are beyond that of many college kids today and many of those old folks never set foot inside a college.

    Part of that is because there were activities which seemed frivolous, but were in fact appropriate learning mechanisms for the times. Today's kids need appropriate learning mechanisms just as much and seeing as how they're all about technology it is simply shortsighted not to leverage those interests. Programming has all the basics of core skills teaching and complies (ha!) them in a way that can not only be positioned as interesting, but can't be done in any other single way. From math and science to good grammar and spelling to logic and critical thinking and context/content analysis, everything is there. The only thing it can't be used to teach are social graces and physical education but those are different problems.

    Hell, you could argue that well designed software is also an exercise in management as good software gets you through the work and you didn't even know you were being guided the entire time. Just like a good manager.

    As far as cockwomble goes, what a fabulous word! Every effort should be made to get OED inclusion! They'll take anything now, and this word is far better than most.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting article.

    Should they teach programming to 7 year old? Maybe... I think there is a bigger question: What should we be teaching 7 year olds?

    At the most basic level we, as a society, need our children to learn reading, writing and basic math skills. Without those basics, everything else is meaningless. As such these should be drilled into kids for the first several years of their schooling period. Let's call that through the 3rd grade.

    Once they have those basics covered, the next step is to introduce things like history, science and social skills. History should cover global items such as the rise of man with a focus on pivotal periods. Science, at least early on, ought to be only to a depth to inspire interest. Such as the basics for biology, chemistry and physics. Social skills should include what it means to be a citizen, how the country was formed, as well as influencing skills such as presenting persuasive arguments and debate. At this point we ought to be through the 8th grade.

    9th through 12th ought to allow more freedom to dive into areas the child finds interesting. Teaching basic reading/writing and math skills should be anathema to this level and indicative of complete and total failure of the education system. This time period should allow them to go more in depth based upon interest in a safe manner. Meaning, if they decide that biology isn't for them, then maybe Physics or psychology or programming is... The point is that at this time they should be free to try out various fields before getting to college.

    University/College - To me, I don't believe a college should offer courses on basic math or writing. If a person can't exhibit competence at this level then they need to go to a remedial school until they can. Seriously, forcing college students through 6 hours of English Comp represents a failure in primary school education.

    Also, I don't believe Universities should enforce a "well rounded" education. Kids are taking 5+ years to get through school. Why? In part because there are so many unrelated courses they are forced to take. Why should a Comp Sci student be forced to take "understanding artistic forms" or "western civilization"? Does it add anything to the student's ability to excel in their chosen field? Unlikely.

    More to the point, I think Universities should allow a person, regardless of background, to focus on and specialize in their chosen field. As an employer I should be confident in hiring a recent grad knowing that they knowledge they have represents the pinnacle of education in that field.

    The reality is, as an employer, I know that hiring a recent grad means that they know squat about their chosen field... unless it's a physics degree. If it's comp sci I know I need to spend at least a year "deprogramming" them because what they believe they "know" is simply wrong. If it's accounting or business related I have a slightly higher opinion, but still it's bad. Instead of learning what the current laws and regulatory environment is, they spend a lot of time on "humanities" bs.

    My wife graduated with a Masters in English; complete waste of paper. Even as a Magna Cum Laude grad she couldn't get a job writing and moved on to a completely unrelated profession. My brother is currently working on his Doctorate in Comp Sci; another waste of paper. Why? well, maybe it's because the crap they are trying to teach him is either well solved ground or stuck on words like "NP Hard". Which simply doesn't matter. Me? Well, I quit college after a year and run my own software company while employing 50 people.

    Yes, I realize the type of argument I'm making. I also realize that as a society we have enough information available to predict the types of jobs we need fulfilled in the future. We also have enough information to be able to identify the various environments people will excel in as well as match them to those environments. Finally, we just need to get rid of our current "educators" and put in people who understand what it takes to teach a child math and language skills. There should never be a debate on the news as to whether we should be teaching "intelligent design" or "evolution" in a K-12 environment: answer: Neither, teach them to read instead!

  63. SoulFireMage

    Creativity, logic, critical thinking

    I'm guessing Willard doesn't value these in children.

    To learn to communicate your vision, clearly and correctly to a computer, in any programming language means learning all the above in a very concentrated focussed way. You've to argue your way through, foresee-logically- the future and account for problems.

    In the process tapping into maths, linguistics and a variety of other skills. This is ignoring the possibility of team work in a complex project.

    I'm guessing that for Willard, there aren't many industries and activities that would also benefit from this?

    If I had kids, I want them coding just after they read or add up; not because they should be programmers, no more than readers become authors by default, but because the skills it teaches are becoming very necessary, very human and very useful outside the computer.

    A fact that anyone with a bit more sense than this fellow quickly sees.

  64. finisterre

    work is only a tiny bit of most lives.

    I would prefer our educators prioritised philosophy over coding.

    1. Vic

      > I would prefer our educators prioritised philosophy over coding

      The two are essentially identical.

      A friend of mine at University studied Philosophy, and we all took the piss mercilessly.

      Then she walked into a coding job at Hoskins on essentially the same money I was earning - Philosophy teaches exactly the same logical reasoning, it just doesn't teach the syntax of computer languages.

      And language syntax is trivial[1] - it's the analysis that makes the job.

      Vic.

      [1] Intercal excepted, natch...

  65. annynaj19

    hello...

    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,

  66. Bartlett22

    Coding: 'suitable for exceptionally dull weirdos'

    The funniest offer I got was when one of my cousins suggested that I act as his unpaid system architect and project manager, overseeing and directing a team of indian/chinese outsourced developers who would develop his "travel website".

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Practically educational

    Yes, coding is a niche interest, as with any skill.

    Someone enjoys doing something that lots of others don't then later gets paid for those abilities gained.

    Personally I believe education in purely academic pursuits are pointless, less you need somewhere to keep your spawn out of trouble for X amount of years while they study.

    Perhaps pragmatic qualifications should be worth more than academic?

  68. This post has been deleted by its author

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