John Cook just brought up the changeover from Scheme to Python in MIT’s beginning CS classes. I was exposed to Scheme very early in my programming career during my ill-fated quarter at the University of Chicago. For some reason I can’t remember (it was 14 years ago), I registered late and couldn’t get into entry level CS classes. So I enrolled in an AI class (against the advice of my undergrad advisor) without really knowing how to program. This was old school AI, not machine learning, so it wasn’t the maths that got me. The first programming assignment threw me completely for a loop — I had never seen Scheme before and didn’t know a thing about it. My world up to point that had consisted of Pascal and BASIC, with a smattering of assembly. The logic behind the AI stuff made sense, but the logistics of getting Scheme to do what I wanted escaped me and I dropped the class. Turns out that advisor was worth listening to!
Whenever something like this happens, you will see three groups of commenters emerge. First are the I-don’t-care’s. Actually, you don’t see them since they don’t give a crap. The next are the fanboys. They love the new language and are glad that MIT has discarded a dinosaur in favor of the language of Heaven. And finally you have the sticks in the mud who lament the death of computer science because a whole generation will grow up retarded thanks to not learning programming just the way they did. Obviously, these are exaggerated — I say it to shock the mind.
Cognitive psychology would have me believe that by drawing stark lines and exaggerating the situation, I will actually cause people to align themselves more closely with the stereotypes I laid out. The logical alternative would be to view it as a joke, take a step back, and examine your own reaction. Why do people get so worked up about this? Why do I get so worked up about people getting so worked up? :P
Maybe I’m getting crotchety in my old age.