3.645 humanists, youths, computers (248)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Thu, 26 Oct 89 18:17:31 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 645. Thursday, 26 Oct 1989.

(1) Date: Wed, 25 Oct 89 22:06:45 EDT (34 lines)
From: amsler@flash.bellcore.com (Robert A Amsler)
Subject: Making people learn to use a computer

(2) Date: Wednesday, 25 October 1989 2219-EST (23 lines)
Subject: Enabling Computer Access

(3) Date: Thu, 26 Oct 89 04:00:00 EDT (53 lines)
Subject: Computers and Youth

(4) Date: Thu, 26 Oct 89 11:59 EDT (59 lines)
From: "Sterling Beckwith (York University)" <GUEST4@YUSol>
Subject: Historicist musings

(5) Date: Thu, 26 Oct 89 15:03:11 EDT (44 lines)
From: Duane Harbin <DHARBIN@YALEVM>
Subject: Re: 3.636 humanists and computers, cont. (79)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 25 Oct 89 22:06:45 EDT
From: amsler@flash.bellcore.com (Robert A Amsler)
Subject: Making people learn to use a computer

"The discussion of computers, education, and liberal arts
school (Reed and its cohorts) has really hit home. We are
discussing computerizing, and among the basic tenets of the
program is "access for every student to computing" -- which
is rapidly, in certain uses, sounding like REQUIRED use of
the computer by EVERY student, regardless of his/her field or
interests. I myself am worried by the "big brother" sound of
the project. Any other reactions? Is anyone at an
institution where this development (access ==> requirement)
has occurred?"

Yeah, right on. Next thing schools will be doing is saying that
every student should know how to read. What use does the talented
artist have for reading, or the video filmmaker, or the musician
with a natural talent.


Put another way..... What BIG BROTHER will be doing in the coming
years is preventing people from learning how to use computers.....
Letting someone graduate from college these days without knowing how
to use a computer is something that really bothers me. Sure it is
hard on them---to have to learn enough to use one while in
school---but how infinitely harder it will be on them not knowing how
when they are in the outside world.

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------26----
Date: Wednesday, 25 October 1989 2219-EST
Subject: Enabling Computer Access

Here at the University of Pennsylvania, which installed
a fiberoptic network spine to most of its buildings a couple
of years ago at a great deal of cost, there are pressures from
various sources, including faculty committees, to plug offices
and dormatories into the existing spine. This is hardly a
move towards enforced computing! It just seems irresponsible
to spend several million dollars to create a situation
favorable for electronic communication both inside and outside
the University, then walk away and leave each department,
project, office, dorm, etc. on its own with regard to tapping
into the spine! Thus we really do intend to create an
availability atmosphere, where those who want to make use
of this facility can do so with minimal effort/trouble.
If faculty, students, etc., do not wish to take advantage
of this opportunity (to access the library catalogue,
e-mail, etc.), that is their business. But we want them to
have a real choice.

Bob Kraft
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------60----
Date: Thu, 26 Oct 89 04:00:00 EDT
Subject: Computers and Youth

Youths and Computers:

One topic of discussion that has been on HUMANIST lately is the
difficulty of teaching our youth to use computers. I would like
to take the opportunity to respond from a young person's
perspective, if, at 26, I can still be considered young!

The suggestion was made that we do not bother to teach computers
to our youth; rather, we should just wait until they have been
indoctrinated by movies, culture, etc. Am I missing something
or is someone really out of touch with the times? WE ARE THE
from high school in 1981. The year after I left, computer
programming was introduced as part of the regular math
curriculum. My brother went through this curriculum, went to
college already programming, and is now, at age 24, a programmer
for a major corporation. My wife's brother is the same, and many
of my friends are too, (all under 25.) I am very surprised to
hear that there are still high schools left that don't require
computers. So, I don't understand all the fuss.

Furthermore, I teach two divisions of ethical theory here at
Marquette. Last week, I asked my students (juniors) how many of
them had done computer programming; more than half said yes. I
doubt that a survey of university professors would reveal the
same percentage. In addition, one of my students (age 20) owns
his own computer manufacturing business; and another took a
reader in AI last term and is publishing his project.

I have always thought that computer programming was an activity
of the young; and all the evidence I have seen has not changed
my position. Would someone care to elaborate (more precisely) on
what the problems are? While it is true that not all youths
have been exposed to computers (I guess they didn't go to Humpty
Dumpty Pre-school -- some of the pre-schools I know of use
computers as part of their curriculum) each year more and more
of them have. And I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that in
the next ten years our college freshman know more about
computers than we do.

Sincerely confused ?????

Anthony Beavers - Lecturer
Department of Philosophy
Marquette University
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233

ail on the vax. It would,
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------65----
Date: Thu, 26 Oct 89 11:59 EDT
From: "Sterling Beckwith (York University)" <GUEST4@YUSol>
Subject: Historicist musings

Dear Willard,

Permit me to add one last unscientific postscript to our discussion on possible
remedies for the mismatch between computers and humanists' minds.

No one has yet spoken out for those who see the new technology as at last
making possible a style of learning that is actually far closer to what
humanists believe in than what our present mass multiversity situation allows.

While bemused by the thought that the ideals underlying the teaching of the
humanities are considerably older than the modern age, not to mention mass
higher education, so that one mismatch may well deserve another, I came across
quite by chance an article by one of our very few homegrown philosophers of
educational technology, a remarkable man by the name of Francis Meynard, who
writes regularly for a Bulletin called BIP-BIP, put out by the Quebec Ministry
of Education. Perhaps readers will not mind a clumsy attempt at transmitting a
few selected lines of his argument in an imperfectly ASCIIfied version of the
original, just to give a soupcon of its flavor.

In a piece entitled "L'Igloo et l'ordinateur", in the May 1989 issue of BIP-BIP
(No. 52), Meynard has this to say:

Notre systeme d'education dans ses finalites vise a l'epanouissement
complet de la personne des apprenants; a la comprehension par chacun des
notions acquises; a l'apprentissage d'habiletes, de methodes et de structures;
et pas seulement au rabachage de notions toutes faites. Or, cet ideal, partage
heureusement par les maitres, n'est pas de type industriel. Il exige le
"preceptorat" ou les cours prives ou un maitre consacre tout son temps a un
seul eleve ou l'education est englobee dans la relation vecue entre les deux.

...Ce fut une erreur et un echec de tenter d'industrialiser l'education. Le
porte-a-faux ainsi cree entre la pedagogie non industrialisable et
l'organisation scolaire industrialisee, explique en effet une bonne part des
difficultes actuellement vecues par nos systemes scolaires.... Il est donc
devenu urgent de se mettre a post-industrialiser l'education.

...On peut obtenir de l'information "prete-a-porter sur-mesure" adaptable a
chaque cas individuel. On peut, grace aux instruments intelligents, tendre
vers une excellence de l'education pour tous, basee non sur la quantite, mais
sur la qualite. On peut enfin faire des maitres des communicateurs
pedagogiques professionels, a condition de leur fournir les outils adaptes a
cet objectif....

Les maitres seront-ils capables de vivre ce passage a une ere nouvelle et
d'accepter la reformation necessaire?....

I am sure readers steeped in the kinds of textological cryptography so often
alluded to in these electronic pages will have no trouble supplying most, if
not all of the missing diacritical marks. Whether they will be as quick to
engage the underlying premise remains to be seen.

Sterling Beckwith
Music and Humanities
York University
Toronto, Canada
(5) --------------------------------------------------------------52----
Date: Thu, 26 Oct 89 15:03:11 EDT
From: Duane Harbin <DHARBIN@YALEVM>
Subject: Re: 3.636 humanists and computers, cont. (79)

While I sympathize with Leslie Morgan's concern, and I agree that it would be
a misplacement of priorities to require students to use computers for the sake
of using computers, I have begun to feel that some level of skill at computing
is fundamental to functionality in our society in general and academia in
particular. Certainly this opinion is felt in virtually every public school
district in the U.S. While I wouldn't want to push the analogy too hard,
requiring some level of computer literacy seems to me no more "Big Brother-ly"
than requiring that term papers be typed. (That should be baldly enough stated
to cause some reaction.)

On another point entirely, let us PLEASE not get embroiled in another debate
on the relative merits and demerits of particular hardware/operating systems.
I work in DOS, MAC, Ibycus, and VM/CMS environments, and none of them is
perfect for all things and all people. Each of them has some perfectly
maddening characteristics, and some things which they do wonderfully. Let us
agree to disagree, and not trouble our sisters and brothers of other

I do however, object strenuously to the notion that administrative personnel
should decide what equipment scholars will use. Being an administrative type
myself, this is probably treasonous. However, it is a direct consequence of
my previous point; not all hardware is suitable for all people. If I know
that a particular piece of hardware will not do what is expected of it, that
is another matter. But I wouldn't enforce my preference for DOS machines and
command language on someone else.

Rather than debating the relative merits of systems, I think we could be more
productive in insisting that different flavors of systems and software
communicate with each other without requiring heroic efforts in translation.
In this I congratulate the designers at Apple for going the second mile and
building the MAC II system with the capability of reading DOS diskettes.

Duane Harbin
Systems & Planning Manager
Yale University
Divinity School Library
409 Prospect Street
New Haven. CT 06511
(203) 432-5296