Re: Putative Inborn Inability to Program

Subject: Re: Putative Inborn Inability to Program
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 12 Nov 1995 07:44:32 PST

Karen Kay & Kris Olberg write:

>> The truth is that most writers *can* learn to program.

>This sounds more than an opinion rather than the truth.

I doubt anyone has done a carefully controlled study on this exact
topic, but I think the attitude that "liberal arts types can't
program" is along the same lines as "Americans can't learn Japanese."
Japanese is a difficult language, and few Americans find fluency
in Japanese to be absolutely central to their careers, though
vast numbers would benefit greatly from it if they picked it up.

So most Americans who take Japanese courses just dabble in it, and
give up after a course or two.

In World War II, however, there was plenty of motivation, and the Army
taught scads of people Japanese. They found out that all it took was
a sensible course of instruction and a great deal of brutally hard
work on the part of the students.

Thus, some things that get the "impossible" label slapped on them
are merely difficult. And, as tech writers, we laugh in the face
of difficulty, chortle at inconvenience, and only sulk a little
bit at the impossible.

There's also the idea that "technical types" are different from "liberal
arts types." Certainly their coursework is different. The "technical
types" didn't take all the language, literature, and communication classes
that the "liberal arts" types slaved over for years. Similarly, the
"technical types" worked like dogs attaining mastery of the technical
subjects THEY studied.

In spite of many years and many thousands of dollars of specialized
training that differentiates the two groups' skills, many people assume
that the differences in the skill sets of the two groups is due entirely
to mysterious, innate qualities.

(Sadly, this is in line with basic American prejudice. The kid up the
street who practices piano four hours a day has a "natural gift." The
kid down the street who shoots baskets day an night is a "natural athlete."
Kids who don't pick up the same skills in an afternoon or a couple of
weeks decide -- or are told -- that they have no talent.)

I find all this highly implausible. While it presumably will take a
long time to acquire the entire skill set of an engineer with five
years of hobby activity before college, five years of college, and ten
years of on-the-job experience, corners of the field so narrow that
they can be condensed into a single community college course can
be learned by anyone willing to spend the necessary time (and maybe
to take the course twice: I flunked my first Calculus course and
had to re-take it. Boy, am I glad that no one challenged my assumption
that the problem was simply that I hadn't worked hard enough! I was
more impressionable back then. Who knows what would have happened if
someone made a convincing case that creative types can't learn math?).

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon * President/Managing Editor, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139

Previous by Author: Re: I need your input - again
Next by Author: Re: Putative Inborn Inability to Program
Previous by Thread: Re: Putative Inborn Inability to Program
Next by Thread: Re: Putative Inborn Inability to Program

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads