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2:01pm on Sunday, 1st April, 2012:



Here's an extract from today's Observer:

Hmm, "educatioin", yes. It seems his criticism was justified...

The article is part of a big section lamenting the state of Computer Science education in the UK and urging the government to do something about it. The Observer's heart is in the right place (whether or not it's seen the writing on the wall and has decided to support the idea of improvement so it can claim that what's going to happen anyway occurred because of its campaign); however, when you read the article it's clear that few of the journalists involved actually understand coding themselves. A number of the bright 17-year-olds who "code" actually write HTML and CSS, for example. Well I'm sorry, but unless it has recursion (ie. loops) and branching (ie. conditionals), you can't call it coding (OK, you can, but not when the implication is that coding equates to programming). A programmer could perhaps force HTML/CSS to do something algorithmic, but the only reason to do so would be to show that they could.

The lack of technical and scientific knowledge among journalists is legendary. There are, of course, plenty of journalists who do have the technical and scientific knowledge to write authoritatively on a subject and, if they don't know enough to do so, actually go out of their way to read up on it. Wendy Grossman is like that, for example. In-depth understanding isn't restricted to techy people, of course — many business and economics journalists are similarly serious about their work. Generic journalists, though, tend to have little technical knowledge; it's as if they thought technological detail were a self-contained concept that had no relevance to the human interest angle. Worse, some give the distinct impression of believing that science and art are polar opposites and if you can do one then by definition you can't do the other; having no scientific aptitude is therefore a good thing, because it means you must be amazingly fantastic on the art side. Amusingly, they will sometimes justifying this by appealing to science, "it's a left brain, right brain thing".

The teaching of programming in schools can't come soon enough...

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Copyright © 2012 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).