I just finished reading this piece, The Early History of Smalltalk by Alan Kay. Some of the quotes I really liked from it:
Should we even try to teach programming? I have met hundreds of programmers in the last 30 years and can see no discernable influence of programming on their general abiltity to think well or to take an enlightened stance on human knowledge. If anything, the opposite is true. Expert knowledge often remains rooted in the environments in which it was first learned–and most metaphorical extensions result in misleading analogies. A remarkable number off artists, scientists, philosophers are quite dull outside of their specialty (and one suspects within it as well). The first siren’s song we need to be wary of is the one that promises a connection between an interesting pursuit and interesting thoughts. The music is not in the piano, and it is possible to graduate Julliard wiothout finding or feeling it.
The “trick,” and I think that this is waht liberal arts educations is supposed to be about, is to get fluent and deep while building realtionships with other fluent deep knowledge. Our society has lowered its aims so far that it is happy with “increases in scores” without daring to inquire whether any important threshold has been crossed. Being able to read a warning on a pill bottle or write about a summer vacation is not literacy and our society should nbot treat it so. Literacy, for example is being able to fluently read and follow the 50 oage argument in Paine’s Common Sense and being able (and happy) to fluently write a critique or defence of it. Another kind of 20th century literacy is being able to hear about a new fatal contagious incurable disease and instantly know that a disastrous exponential relationship holds and early action is of the highest priority. Another kind of literacy would take citizens to their personal computers where they can fluently and without pain build a systems simulation of the disease to use as a comparison against further information.
The reason, therefore, that many of us want children to understand computing deeply and fluently is that like literature, matematics, science, music, and art, it carries special ways of thinking about situations that in contrast with other knowledge and other wasy of thinking critically boost our ability to understand our world.