Neil's News

Have Faith

18 October 2014

While teaching my first group of inner-city youth I learned of a new programming technique. I call it "faith-based programming". First you write code. Then you really believe in yourself, you have faith in the code, and you run it. If the code happens to work, then that's a validation of the technique. If the code fails, then it is a validation that there was an insufficient level of faith. In which case you should believe more and try running the exact same code again. And again.

I've been teaching programming to children for decades, but this was the first time I'd encountered this demographic. Most of this group was unable to comprehend single sentence written instructions. Simple sequencing of trivial commands (move forward, turn left, etc) was nearly incomprehensible to them. After an hour and a half of help, not one of these youths was able to understand how an 'if' statement worked. I was defeated by a culture so completely foreign that I was unable to find common ground.

Reaching these youths in a meaningful way and making a difference is clearly incredibly important. But I have absolutely no idea of how to do it. Does anyone out there have experience in this matter? I'm lost.

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