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Simply Scheme - 2nd Edition: Introducing Computer Science

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There are two schools of thought about teaching computer science. We might caricature the two views this way:

· The conservative view: Computer programs have become too large and complex to encompass in a human mind.
Therefore, the job of computer science education is to teach people how to discipline their work in such a way that 500
mediocre programmers can join together and produce a program that correctly meets its specification.

· The radical view: Computer programs have become too large and complex to encompass in a human mind.
Therefore, the job of computer science education is to teach people how to expand their minds so that the programs
can fit, by learning to think in a vocabulary of larger, more powerful, more flexible ideas than the obvious ones. Each
unit of programming thought must have a big payoff in the capabilities of the program.

Of course nobody would admit to endorsing the first approach as we've described it. Yet many introductory
programming courses seem to spend half their time on obscure rules of the programming language (semicolons go
between the instructions in Pascal, but after each instruction in C) and the other half on stylistic commandments (thou
shalt comment each procedure with its preconditions and postconditions; thou shalt not use goto). In an article that
was not intended as a caricature, the noted computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra argues that beginning computer science
students should not be allowed to use computers, lest they learn to debug their programs interactively instead of writing
programs that can be proven correct by formal methods before testing.
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