back to article Object to #YearOfCode? You're a misogynist and a snob, says the BBC

Critics of the Government's "Year of Code" scheme are misogynists or snobs, according to the BBC's tech correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones. Rory's frustration is that while billions of pounds are splurged on IT, children are passively taught PowerPoint procedures. That's the limit of the state's ambitions for children. This a …

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  1. Dan 55 Silver badge

    My snobbish misogynist viewpoint.

    If it were any other profession, we'd have 'science body takes issue with government iniciative' or 'engineering society objects to new government curriculum'. But no, we're 'coders' and, just like our opinion doesn't matter in business ('okay, point noted, now go back and hit the keys'), it doesn't matter in education either.

    As has been mentioned so often by commentards here, coding in itself isn't an end, what is an end using computing to teach logic and critical thinking in an interesting or, dare I even say it, fun way. Some of these children will then later go on to code, which is 100 times easier to teach once they've got the basics sorted out. As is every other subject.

  2. Steve Graham

    The bare facts in the article yesterday made it pretty clear that the whole thing is a scam that shifts taxpayers' money into the wallets of a clique of people who are largely technology-ignorant, but savvy in the ways of government and civil service.

  3. Pete 2 Silver badge

    You missed one

    From RCJ's article

    > There is a minority of older experienced programmers ...

    So not only is this guy accusing people of snobbishness and misogyny, but there's a whiff of ageism in there, too.

    However, since this guy works for the People''s Democratic Republic of the BBC, he knows that everything he writes will be scrutinised by the PC brigade - either within the organisation, or without - and duly held against him when his next contract renewal comes up. On on that basis you can't really blame him for being so right-on - his strings are being pulled in ways we could never imagine.

    However, back on topic. Teaching people coding is like trying to teach speaking. It denies the existence of all the different languages out there and assumes that so long as you can make some noises, the job's done. In practice, it's barely started.

  4. Emma Mulqueeny

    At the risk of adding yet more topics to be fixed, I would advocate Conrad Wolfram's Computer Based Math curriculum http://www.computerbasedmath.org/ simple, already extremely well researched and produced with real life teachers and successfully running in Estonia http://blog.wolfram.com/2013/02/11/announcement-our-first-cbm-country/.

  5. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    [B]asic maths and literacy...

    Education in a nutshell. Until you have achieved this level you should not be leaving primary school. To consider leaving secondary school at the age of sixteen being unable to read, write, and perform basic arithmetic is an insult both to the student and the society which will have to support him.

    In secondary education, the current fad for everyone sitting the same examination has dropped any meaning for the qualification to the lowest common denominator: compare and contrast a late sixties 'O' level (others are available but this was the first I found):

    http://www.burtongrammar.co.uk/category/life-and-times/school-exams/1968-maths-o

    with a current GCSE, designed for innumerates to pass:

    http://www.wjec.co.uk/uploads/papers/w13-4351-01.pdf

    Like it or not, programming requires literate and numerate practitioners. The questions I see posted on so many fora seem to indicate that this condition is not being met.

    1. Lyndon Hills 1

      Re: [B]asic maths and literacy...

      Amazing. The recent paper reminds you to show all your working for what amounts to simple mental arithmatic.The title should be very basic maths.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: [B]asic maths and literacy...

        Divide 66570 by 10 then multiply by 3. Give your answer to the nearest 1000.

        What is 540207 in words?

        Read the number off this scale

        Count these numbers

        Sort these numbers

        What is the area of these two rectangles?

        WTF? You shouldn't be allowed out of PRIMARY school without the ability to do this.

      2. Rob D.

        Re: [B]asic maths and literacy...

        To be fair, the paper is GCSE Foundation grade so not really for the top end of a cohort, but in practice, the point is well-enough made with just the reference to the paper from 1968. My wife teaches A-level mathematics and they have to accelerate coverage of calculus because GCSE A* mathematics doesn't give enough to do A-level physics (and for reference, my wife's school is a State school which takes a normalised intake across ability, but 98%+ of all students in each year get equivalent of ten A*-C grades (sic) which shows i) that even low ability students can score highly [granted the lower ability range on 'equivalent' qualifications], and ii) a well-lead, effective school setting high expectations gives children the best start in life).

        But back to the topic at hand - like many others I chuckled through Miss Dexter's performance on Newsnight, and was stupefied by the sheer fecklessness of the proposed plan which assaults credibility on so many levels. Schools should be equipping children to function effectively in a world by supporting the effective learning of usable concepts and skills that can extend into their future. Spoon-feeding the proposed tripe about 'coding' will have the same effect on the nation's future technical effectiveness as eviscerating the curriculum in mathematics over a couple of decades has had on our standing in the eyes of the OECD.

        The concept isn't fundamentally wrong (do a better job of equipping children with core skills that should fit well with their likely future lives) but the execution for now is a train wreck in slow motion.

    2. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: [B]asic maths and literacy...

      contrast a late sixties 'O' level (others are available but this was the first I found):

      http://www.burtongrammar.co.uk/category/life-and-times/school-exams/1968-maths-o

      with a current GCSE, designed for innumerates to pass:

      http://www.wjec.co.uk/uploads/papers/w13-4351-01.pdf

      That isn't a valid comparison. GCSEs are split in three different level papers which candidates are submitted for based on their estimated grade. This allows for more testing at or around the level of ability of each candidate. The foundation level paper you cite is for students expected to get no more than an E (A D is doable but needs a very high mark). The intermediate level above that is aimed at C/D students and the higher paper above that for B or above. Thus only the higher level paper is even intended to be a O level equivalent. The paper you cite isn't even CSE standard.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: [B]asic maths and literacy...

        Agreed, and to some extent I was exaggerating to make a point. But even the higher level paper doesn't really reach either the extent or the breadth of the O-level.

        (Vaguely remembered statistic) O-levels were achieved by something like 10% of the cohort; my point that a single examination simply can't cover the range of student's abilities remains. And I'd still argue that the paper I cited - which is, after all, *labelled* as a GCSE - should be achievable at junior school, before secondary education and not after five years of it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ask a thousand techies how to teach children about IT/Computer science and you'll get a thousand answers.

    Few of the answers will have any background knowledge in how to teach children, just expert knowledge actual or perceived in a few IT/CS disciplines.

  7. TonyWilk

    The basics

    The problem seems to be that the non-coders making the decisions want fast'n'fancy results, which will end up with some framework being used so Johnny can just type in "My Website" and choose a colour... Hey look - this 9yo just built a website! Film at 11 !

    What is really needed is to get across some of the real basics (no, not BASIC), for example - codepad.org have an interactive C editor/interpreter. At the same time, you do also need to give 'em some flashy stuff to keep them interested and to demonstrate the breadth of 'coding'.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    some of these are also things the UK isn't very good at - such as project management and customer support. (The latter we can't outsource fast enough, with dire results.)

    Hmmm..... I'm not sure if I should be jumping out of the way of the oncoming stampede of project managers objections, or if I should be objecting to being told we UK IT people don't know how to support customers...

    On topic, you need to start by engendering interest in the possibilities. The example you gave of a class doing a project about an entire gadget (concept, development, marketing, and after sale support) is a good one. It allows the kids to explore the various areas of technology and science, and to see which bits interest them most. They're not all going to end up coding the instructions, anymore than they'll all end up designing the chipset, or board layout. Some of them might have no interest in how it works at all, but have a flair for making it look/feel good, etc. Guiding them to discover if any of those disciplines are 'for them' would be a far more useful use of the time. Others will want to be drivers, and bricklayers, and nurses, and teachers, and (god forbid) journalists. Guiding them towards educational paths which interest them, has to be far better than assuming some lad who wants to be a builder, or some lass who wants to be a nurse, has any need to know how to write code.

  9. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Short shopping list

    Find kids who want to learn either how computers work or how to make a computer do something.

    Teach them to work out how this might be made to happen.

    Teach them the skills they need to make it happen.

    Encourage them to make it happen.

    Stand behind them ready to help when they ask, but not so close that they bump into you when they turn around.

    Guide and praise them as necessary.

    Ask them what they're going to to do next.

    And that's it.

    You've got the put the resources in place - they'll need a big sandbox to play in - but make that available to the right kids and they'll do most of the work for you. Try to drag anyone kicking and screaming or dumbing things down so that the whole class can do it even if they've no interest or aptitude won't help anyone.

    1. xerocred
      Headmaster

      Re: Short shopping list

      "Ask them what they're going to to do next."

      I wanna be a footballer.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Condemnation By Extrapolation

    Rory Cellan-Jones says:

    "A glance at the comments under a YouTube video of Lottie Dexter's Newsnight interview reveals a murky world of misogyny and coding snobbery"

    Well there's a surprise. That's just YouTube for you, what did you expect? Obviously we're not all like that.

    It's just stereotyping, lazy journalism.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Condemnation By Extrapolation

        I completely agree. These people aren't going to get kids into technology because they don't have any credibility.

        My point was that you can't label all techies as misogynists and snobs on the basis of a few YouTube comments. Nor can you entirely blame these factors for keeping people out.

        If you really want to get people into engineering then maybe raising the status of the engineering profession would be a good place to start. Perhaps some of our major corporations would find it easier to hire and retain good engineers if they didn't lay swathes of them off every time the share price drops a few points.

  11. Mattjimf

    As I mentioned in the comments of Yesterdays article, when I was in high school, I had computing from first year (Scottish system). With this article and a response saying the first time they saw computing was when they moved school to Scotland, I decided to have a look at the curriculum for computing studies at my old school and found the following:

    "S1-S3 Course

    All pupils in S1 attend core ICT for 1 x 50 minute period per week. Pupils will have the option to chooce Computing or Business Studies for S2 and S3 where they will receive 3 x 50 minute periods in their chosen subject, on top of their core ICT period.

    Pupils who chose Computing have the opportunity to develop their problem solving skills and experience a deeper understanding of how software, including games, are designed and created. Topics include computer systems, biometrics, legislation, games design and development in a variety of languages, App design for Android devices and Web Design." http://www.hazleheadacy.aberdeen.sch.uk/computer-studies.html

    Without looking at other Scottish school websites, I would guess that most schools will offer the same classes for the first three years. If the government really wants to fix the issues of computing in schools, might it not be an idea to look at what the other constitute countries of the UK are doing with regards to coding and computer studies classes, and stop saying computing teaching in the UK is broken, when it just seems to be in England (god I hate sounding like a nationalist complaining about being lumped in with England).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Retweeted by Steve Bong"

    Kiss of death for a Shoreditch type or comedy reinforcement for a fellow bongster? I still can't work out which @monkchips is...

  13. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Why not code?

    Education as giving kids basic skills for business is a fucking awful, drab way to try to bring people up. In this it's also very hard for politicians. They're trying to get to grips with what needs to be taught, and fighting an educational establishment that often has different views entirely. Sometimes self-interested, sometimes genuinely held beliefs. And then both are fighting the teachers on the ground, who all have their own ideas of what to do, and different skills.

    Then we add in the voters' opinions. So you Andrew seem to suggest in your article that calculus is basic maths. I venture to disagree. Maths is compulsory up to GCSE. I've never had to use calculus. Or even half the algebra I was taught in maths. So some of the harder stuff can safely be left until A-Level.

    We're all forced to learn at least one foreign langauge, even though very few of us will become fluent at it, some will never use what they do pick up, and English is currently the global language of choice. However this exposure is a good thing, and useful for various reasons. Including the grammar that we don't seem to get in actual English lessons. I was forced to do latin, german and french - which have all been useful in their various ways.

    Surely education should be doing 2 things. Firslty there's basic life skills. So the 3Rs (that aren't). Literacy and numeracy are obviously vital things to have. I think we'd also benefit from some kind of home economics / cookery as well. And I personally think we ought to have some kind of civics / PSE / whatever it's called this week. But done properly - and actually taken seriously as a subject. I think we really ought to be learning something about politics, basic financial education (what's a mortgage / what's a pension), how society works - oh and media studies (i.e. how not to get misled by the Mail/Guardian/etc). Plus some PE / sport. Maybe some sort of woodwork/metalwork/plumbing?

    Next you've got 'tasters'. You don't learn how to do 'proper' history before A-Level. Even then you can probably pass the exams without doing history justice. But if you have a decent teacher, then the only difference between A-Level and degree level is how much research you do for each essay. And how many words it is... But you can still learn about the past, and how are you going to know you want to try it later on, if you don't have a go first.

    So that gives you your history, geography, economics, french, biology, chemistry etc. You do them to get a bit of a basis for how the world works, and just for the general value of being educated. But also to see what's available and what you're interested in, so you can then do further study. There is an argument for specialising less - even up to first year of degree, so you keep narrowing your academic choices - but not nearly so much as we do. Until you finally end up specialising as late as the last 2 or 3 years of a degree course. That's an argument I often read, and I'm not sure what I think about it.

    This is also where english and maths go. They start as core subjects, but then wander off into areas like literature/drama/criticism or calculus. Which are probably not for everyone, and become areas to specialise in at A-Level or university.

    So why not coding? How will you know if you like it, if you've never had a go at it. There's a good argument that computers are now so important that computing/technology ought to get added to the 'core skills' side of education. If not, it should at least be taught to everyone as a 'taster' subject - to attract people into later study. There needs to be some spreadsheets and word-processor stuff, and some how to use the internet. But a bit of how computers work would be nice, and surely that includes some basic idea of what coding is? I don't see why you're so dismissive of this. It's a subject (like languages and science) that education doesn't do well. Because there aren't enough teachers who know it. The BBC had a computer built back in the 80s in order to push the subject. Why not a year of coding now?

    While I'm typing out my education wall of text... It would also be far better not to teach everything in isolation. Surely learning about bakery for example is a good skill to have, and involves biology, chemistry and basic numeracy. Or learning about healthy diet / exercise, which is biology and PE - as well as going into economics understanding marketing and society, and how to avoid getting manipulated into eating shit ready meals when you can make something healthy, delicious and nutritious in under ten minutes - if you're pushed for time. We got a tiny bit of the sports science side of PE in sixth form, and it was far more useful and interesting than GCSE geography.

    Also we really need to drop this obsession with academic study. Yes, we should be sending peole to university to study english. So an A-Level is a good use of their time for 2 years first. The same is true for history, maths, the sciences etc. But we should also be teaching plumbing and electrics to 16 year-olds. That choice should be available too! Not everyone wants to study in an academic way. We need technical colleges again. I can imagine that computer courses of various types would be taught at those, as well as the more academic, theoretical stuff, that leads on to university courses.

  14. TheOtherHobbes

    >There's nothing liberal, or neoliberal, however, about diverting the state's cash to prop up your business empire

    Er - actually that's exactly what neoliberalism is.

    The fuckwits in banking, the riders of the revolving door between Westminster and the various consultancies and 'private sector buyouts' cannibalising the NHS and the pension system, and the various faux workfare corps living off state handouts while bullying the sick and dying - they'd all be be bankrupt if they weren't being showered with state cash for private profit.

    1. Ben Liddicott

      No, get a dictionary

      The "liberals" abandoned freedom in favour of progressivism enforced by the state - trading free-as-in-freedom for free-as-in-beer.

      The "neoliberals" are those who decided that actually freedom was not only more effective at achieving social goals, but just maybe, more important than those goals.

      Freedom is worth risking our lives for. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be robbed of it on the pretext that at least that way we won't starve.

      After all, if the people are prepared to fight and die for freedom, it is bizarre and wrong to take away their freedom in the name of preserving their lives.

  15. Electric Panda

    The whole thing is silliness

    I've never understood why there's this sudden fetish to turn EVERYONE into coders, or where it even came from? Not everyone wants to bang out code all day every day - I work in a technical IT for a FTSE100 and I honestly hate writing code.

    UK CompSci degrees have been pumping out armies of mediocre code monkeys for years and years now. I'd say 80-85% of ALL CS grads I know, regardless of their academic pedigree, now do software engineering or development of some kind - if often follows that those who don't, make a point of telling everyone they don't and in some cases even moan about it feeling like their job is somehow lacking as a result. Why do we suddenly need more and why are we starting them earlier?

    The market is already saturated and salaries are falling. Stop this silliness and start producing computer scientists and general computer enthusiasts rather than yet more sodding code monkeys.

    This whole thing is like teaching children how to fry, boil and poach eggs rather than how to cook more generally. They desperately need a broader and more versatile skillset.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: The whole thing is silliness

      I've never understood why there's this sudden fetish to turn EVERYONE into coders, or where it even came from?

      From a government perspective; 'coding' is the next great thing, the guaranteed saviour of Britain and her economy, so what we need to seize that opportunity is more coders.

      Simples.

      And all of us can see the gravy train which will ride on the back of that.

      Anyone remember those old photos with row after row of secretaries bashing away on typewriters? Replace those typists with 'coders' and you probably get a glimpse of what the government's vision is. An infinite number of coders with an infinite number of computers will write the one app which saves the nation. Honest.

      In a couple of years time the next fad will come along and the government of the day will be chasing that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The whole thing is silliness

      (Being an anonymous coward as I'm in the process of vetting candidates.)

      I'm a long-time software engineer (sorry, "coder") working on everything from embedded 8-bit to high-availability servers for nearly thirty years now as well as working as a BOFH on occasion. One of my tasks over the past few years has been wading through CVs from agencies and interviewing candidates for engineering R&D outfits of various sizes.

      An alarmingly high proportion of the spelling, grammar & fluency of CVs - and agents' covering blurb - is chuffing awful, giving me severe misgivings about the authors' ability to write English let alone code. When I do see a CV good enough for an interview, the candidates often don't understand the "nuts & bolts" of computer technology, basic digital & analogue electronics or the mathematics & physics that is essential for engineering. Often they don't have any breadth of knowledge in the IT field either, lacking curiosity about anything outside their comfort zone.

      What is especially alarming is that the few good candidates are getting older & older. The market for web designing software simians may well be saturated but the market for software engineers with an ounce of skill & creativity is woefully thin. This may be great for those of us who already have the requisite skills but it's a disaster for British engineering.

      Exposing children to a bit of programming is a good idea but much more important is giving them a basic understanding of English and other languages, history, social skills, maths & science and the mental tools & desire to go on to learn more. The ones that are "into" a subject, whether software engineering, plumbing or pub management, will have a better chance at succeeding if they have that.

  16. h4rm0ny

    BBC Comments

    I tried to put the same comment I wrote here on the story at the BBC. But apparently I was three-thousand characters over the limit. They restrict comments to small sound-bite length comments. Framing the dialogue in a way that allows no reasoned debate or deeper analysis than "this sucks" or "this is awesome". I gave up trying to self-edit it down as it just becomes one more partisan voice making an unsupported argument.

  17. pacman7de

    What Cellan-Jones actually wrote:

    What Cellan-Jones actually wrote:: "Now it's fair to point out that some of the criticism is mean spirited. There is a minority of older experienced programmers who see themselves and their craft as an exclusive band of brethren and will always be hostile to an initiative like this.

    A glance at the comments under a YouTube video of Lottie Dexter's Newsnight interview reveals a murky world of misogyny and coding snobbery".

  18. dogged

    How to teach maths

    Honestly?

    The way to teach Maths is not to teach maths. I can honestly say I never learned any maths at all in school until we got to sines, cosines, tangents and quadratic equations. I was in the classes but I learned absolutely nothing.

    I'd already learned it working for my father; a farmer. How many cattle do we have? How much cake does one spring heifer require per day over the winter as a grass supplement? Assume the weather doesn't break until April - how much have we got and how much do we buy in?

    Mrs Gregory wants 10lb of potatoes today but we generally sell them by the half-hundredweight bag, ie, 56lb. That was a fiver so how much for the 10lb she wants? Also, weigh that out when your scales take 56, 28, 14 and 7lb weights.

    Algebra is the substitution of "x" for "potato" or "hay bale". Arithmetic is the process of not starving your animals and not short-changing your customers or yourself.

    Geometry was interesting though :)

    Seriously, cookery works the same way and that's fashionable these days. Bring out the HomeEc teachers.

    And I don't know whether it's relevant or not but everyone I know who grew up with Imperial weights is way better at arithmetic than those who had easy-mode metric.

    But yeah. Don't teach maths until you get to non-physical concepts. Until then, teach life, which is maths.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: How to teach maths

      Perzactly! That's exactly the sort of thing my old school did before the local Labour council killed it off in the name of anti-elitism. Identify the kids who aren't academic, but are vocationally skilled, get them doing things like vehicle maintenance with the maths needed to support it and instead of failing Maths 'O' level they get a Mechanics HND *and* a Maths high scoring 'O' level.

      1. dogged

        Re: How to teach maths

        I don't think you need to be un-academic to benefit from this kind of teaching.

        I'm fairly convinced that a lot of teaching could be done this way before "A" levels, if not all.

        Say we do maths my way with spuds and cattle cake, actually having the kids run a "city farm" or whatever on school grounds - yes, even the country kids. At the point where they easily pass exams on arithmetic and fractions, you start teaching them architecture in the guise of technical drawing and going out with builders. This teaches geometry, stresses, loads, Pythagoras, all the good stuff.

        Then start teaching them about acoustics and you can bring in the physics and the wave-structures and the equations to deal with them.

        Basically, learning should be practical.

        For absolute best results, it should also be financially rewarding.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: How to teach maths

        Yes, I used to fall asleep in English lessons, because I have no imagination and English lessons were all about making things up - in other words, LYING! However, as soon as got to writing documentation or writing up experiments, I was flying away, because I was actually writing REAL stuff, not making things up. If I'd been able to submit my Technology projects as my English homework (or even my Geography projects) I'd have got something better than my 'C'.

        This also affected some of my university work as I did a couple of units Education (when I still naively considered entering teaching) and all my work was littered with things like: If a child is told X, then that child may take that on board, and that may cause them to do Y which may cause Z to happen which may result in....

    3. Trainee grumpy old ****

      Re: How to teach maths

      You've got me stumped!

      How do you weigh out 10 lbs using weights which are all multiples of 7? I can get 10.5 lbs but not 10, and that too it takes 2 weighings.

      Workings:

      a) Weigh out 21 lbs (14+7)

      b) Put the weights away and split the potatoes weighed in 'a' equally between the two pans.

      1. dogged

        Re: How to teach maths

        @Trainee etc

        Sorry. There was also a 1lb weight (very handy for things like green veg and fruit).

        Simple now, isn't it?

  19. electricmonk

    "Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office. Sporting two-day stubble, he enthuses that writing laws is really a form of computation, so we should make it more like a software project: legislation should be crowdsourced, and full of symbols. Get hip, legislators, he says, get like the coders!"

    I totally agree with this, though perhaps not in the way he meant. It's blatantly obvious that none of our legislation gets properly tested before it goes live. What we need is a "law test team" that looks at each new piece of legislation and says, "What could go wrong? How could I break this? If I press the wrong buttons, will it do something unexpected? Does it address all the bugs that were found in the legislation it replaces?" In other words, some professional software testers. If the draft legislation fails the test phase it goes back for fixing.

    The cynic in me thinks that laws are deliberately made ambiguous, contradictory and full of loopholes as that means more business for the lawyers who (surprise surprise!) mostly draft the stuff in the first place. But on the whole I think it's cockup rather than conspiracy.

    1. Raumkraut

      This, exactly this.

      It seems to me that there could be quite a lot about writing contracts and laws that is similar to writing software. Definitions, symbols, conditionals, GOTOs, etc.. I've thought for a while that it would be a good thing for a country or organisation to hire/contract a group of security professionals to parse, deconstruct, and analyse new laws or contracts *before* they go into force.

      1. cyborg

        It's a serious refactoring project.

        Of course if the law is easily interpretable that does mean lawyers are redundant. Serious conflict of interest there.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Raumkraut

        IN essence that's how the German legal system got written - by professionals - after the period we don't mention any more. The result is that litigation in Germany is not a goldmine for lawyers, who are paid about the same as softwar engineers.

    2. Robin Bradshaw

      Statute law in an SVN

      "For example, have a glimpse at this excruciating TED talk for MPs by Richard Heaton"

      I actually thought that was quite an impressive way of looking at things, and perhaps adding a bit of organisation to the mess that is law, when I have tried to look up legislation in the past I wanted the law as it now is, not the original bill and a massive list of amendments that other bills have made since and try to reconcile it, just like linux kernel 1.0 and a mountain of diffs isnt particularly usefull to me even if it would work to compile a current kernel.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    100% of teenagers thought it would be vital for their future job prospects

    According to Rory, Saul Klein, "who seems to be the moving spirit behind this campaign", 100% of teenagers thought it would be vital for their future job prospects.

    Meanwhile my (15yo) son is one of the ~20% in his year who chose Computing as an option for GCSE(almost 30% chose IT instead, a major drop since the Coalition removed the subject from the National Curriculum) hardly squares with that 100% rhetoric.

    Not a political point, the Coalition still have some way to go to equal the stupidity of Labour removing a compulsory foreign language from the KS4 curriculum.

    Apparently, Westminster and the BBC still have far to go applying literacy, numeracy and logic into their own little world.

    1. Mike Taylor

      Re: 100% of teenagers thought it would be vital for their future job prospects

      Hm, not sure about the national curriculum. Last year a foreign language was compulsory at my son's comp, this year it's not. That's new and shiny, and has to be a coalition thing, right?

  21. James Hughes 1

    I'm a school governor on the curriculum committee at a small primary school, as well a softie, as well as a volunteer for Raspberry PI, so that my credentials for what they are worth.

    People need to realise that teaching coding (and it's still very early stages) won't affect the basic reading, writing and numeracy teaching. A huge amount of effort goes in to teaching those with special educational needs (i.e. those who are not up to scratch in the basics), and that will not change with the introduction of a new subject. Every child who is below standard gets extra teaching (at least in the school I am involved with). So people should not be complaining that that is going to change just because there is now coding on the curriculum as well. It's a strawman argument.

    As for teaching coding itself, I believe that in order for children to make decent career choices, they need to be exposed to coding at school. That way you can find out whether the required aptitude is there. I would put money on there being some prospective best SW engineers in the world, currently sitting in a call centre somewhere, never having coded in their life.

    As for the benefits of teaching coding to all, there are a number of principles that are part and parcel of learning about coding that are beneficial even to those who do not end up in a coding career. Logical thinking, decomposing tasks in to subtasks, touch typing(!) etc. Even a basic knowledge of the complexities involved will help when some of these people make it in to management rather than a coding career.

    Now, whether the teaching needs to be as long as two years for all, I'm not convinced. I think 6 months for all might be adequate, then stream the people who want to do it/are good at it and get those who don't to concentrate elsewhere.

    Year of Code itself? Run by people who really don't know what to do. They have the wrong people in charge, which is sad because there are many people who have be working towards this for years and are very experienced, and who could have been brought in. Hopefully it will sort itself out, but since it seems to be heading the way of most government initiatives, I don't hold out too much home.

  22. The March Hare

    The Turtle Moves!

    Didn't kids used to use BBC micros and Logo years ago to make a robotic turtle move around the classroom?

    An introduction to a sort of BASIC and you got to make it do something cool

    Or am I too old? <sigh>

    1. Lallabalalla

      Re: The Turtle Moves!

      They still do, kinda - on a windows laptop, using drag n drop building blocks of logic - in year three.

      My [now 8yr old] has since moved on to playing with string concatenation/interleaving and basic calculators using the cheapest tools of all: javascript and a text editor, and a browser.

      He thinks building a simple addition calculator was very cool - and was amazed by a loop that printed out something 10,000 times :)

  23. Imsimil Berati-Lahn

    Simple solution.

    Legislate that it is prohibited for anyone under the age of 25 to learn about computers or to write and implement computational algorithms.

    Suddenly, the topic acquires a mysitque and subversive caché.

    Teenagers throughout the land will be clamouring to learn and understand the forbidden knowledge.

    It can't be worse than the current, ham-handed deployment of besuited politicos endeavouring to be "down wiv da kids" which is naff at best and seems to be quite counterproductive from what I have heard. Buuut, maybe that is their ultimate intention.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We don't have anyone competent to do that

    "Sporting two-day stubble, he enthuses that writing laws is really a form of computation, so we should make it more like a software project..."

    That is actually a thought that occurred to me about 25 years ago. (It fits in with my perennial question as to why programmers are paid less and considered socially inferior to lawyers, when the work they do is probably harder and more abstract).

    There is one big problem, though. If writing laws were treated like a proper software project, no law would ever yet have been finalized by Parliament. They'd all still be in perpetual debug mode.

    1. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Re: We don't have anyone competent to do that

      > writing laws is really a form of computation, so we should make it more like a software project.

      The two other differences being that the CPU doesn't get to interpret the laws code it's told to execute - it just gets on and does what the code says: whether it's sensible or not - and that doesn't change subtly over time (yes: I do know about software rot). So at least there's the possibility of getting the result you intended - provided you code it properly - rather than what the CPU (or judiciary) thinks it should be.

      The other difference is that there isn't an entire other CPU, with vastly more incentive, power and time that is dedicated to finding reasons why your code shouldn't be executed, or how it could be bent, warped and subverted to do its own bidding. Although one could argue that is exactly what the Intel architecture does.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: We don't have anyone competent to do that

      "If writing laws were treated like a proper software project, no law would ever yet have been finalized by Parliament. They'd all still be in perpetual debug mode."

      I think not. "Does it power up? Ship it."

    3. Luke McCarthy

      Re: We don't have anyone competent to do that

      I do think the law should be in a git repository with full diff history.

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