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:> The Case for Learning Perl

by ignatz (Vicar)
on Jun 12, 2002 at 11:26 UTC ( #173774=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to The Case for Learning Perl

A long time ago I was playing in an orchestra used for a conducting master class given by Edo de Waart who at the time was conductor of the SF Symphony. The participants were all young graduate level conductors. The piece was the first movement to Dvorak's New World Symphony.

A woman came out and started conducting. Her technique was stiff and she was unprepared. That much was obvious to everyone in the room but her. As she led the orchestra, 'Maestro' de Waart walked up to the podium and with a slight wave of his hand stopped the orchestra. "You are wasting everyone's time. You will never make it as a conductor. Who is next?" The woman stepped down and left the hall in tears.

It was the cruelest thing I had ever seen. Much more so than any "flame" I've read online. Her big moment in front of the master and he crushes her like a used tin can. Was he right to have done that? I have yet to decide. The one thing that everyone there that I talked to agreed on was that it would either ruin her or turn her into a much better conductor.

Whenever one comes before a master and asks his/her advice, there is always the risk that he will give it to you. When he does, no matter how harsh or cruel or discouraging be grateful that he has. One comes to learn the way, not to feel good. If one cares about the toll it takes on one's pride, better to travel down another path.


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•Re: Re: The Case for Learning Perl
by merlyn (Sage) on Jun 12, 2002 at 15:01 UTC
    In the courses we teach, I stress to the instructors that the most important thing is to understand where the student is at when they ask a question, and that our job is to create a bridge from there to wherever they've paid us to take them.

    However, sometimes these bridges are of the form of questions, not answers. Perhaps that annoys the "give it to me" crowd, but it certainly provides the proper environment for ongoing learning, long after we've packed up our laser pointers and headed home.

    I'm also reminded of an aphorism given in one of the many management training classes in which I've participated:

    You're only as strong as your strongest opponent.
    On that scale, I'm pretty strong. {grin}

    -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker

      In the courses (Solaris, Perl, Networking) I often do the same. Replying to questions with counter questions. There can be several reasons for counter questions.
      • A question arises from a wrong assumption of how things are. By asking questions you can quickly narrow down where the wrong assumption is being made.
      • It can give the student a much better understanding of why a question has a certain answer. Understanding is far more valuable than knowing.
      • Sometimes a question is phrased so poorly (often by lack of understanding or knowing) that there is no answer, or the answer doesn't help the student. Asking counter questions can be more helpful than saying "Your question doesn't make sense".

      Unfortunally, if you apply such techniques on the net, be it on Usenet, web forums like this, and also on IRC, you are quickly labelled as being a bitch. For some reason, it's often expected to just give the answer.


        That label of "bitch" is often given by those that want things done quickly and cheaply. They don't care about education and enlightenment, only results.

        As an instructor, I believe it's better for one to ask more questions in return. You can give someone the answers, but you won't be helping them learn. Case in point: A high school teacher assigns only odd-numbered questions as homework, knowing that the odd-numbered questions are solved in the back of the book. A distinction can be made at the end of the year: those that want results (or to "get it over with") and had perfect homework grades, but poor test grades, and those that ignored the easy way and tried to work the problems out themselves.

        As this applies to the real world, those that learn through solving difficult solutions become much stronger at solving other problems. Those that want results become Pointy-Haired Managers. ;)

        John J Reiser

Re: Re: The Case for Learning Perl
by talexb (Canon) on Jun 12, 2002 at 13:45 UTC
    Interesting that you drew upon a music analogy -- I too have a story in that area to tell.

    After singing with a wonderful bunch of guys in a chorus who couldn't sing a tuned chord more than once a week, back in 1998 I decided to audition for a place in the Northern Lights, a new chorus that was starting up. They were sounding very hot.

    With Grade 7 in Piano, Grade 2 in Music Theory and my experience with the previous chorus (section leader), I worked hard and went in for the audition. It was a tough audition and I was plenty nervous. After the audition I stood around waiting for someone to congratulate me.


    The Assistant Director came over and said that I'd done well, but I wasn't up to their standards. I was welcome to continue to come out and sing with the chorus and improve, and I could have one more shot at an audition to the group.


    To say that the audition failure affected me would be to understate the point. I was miserable, then made that realization that this was a challenge. If I worked hard before the first audition, I redoubled my efforts afterwards. After the second audition, the Director of the group came over to tell me that although I'd improved, I still wasn't up to the standards of the group.

    But admission to the group is also granted to those who show some definite signs of promise, and he admitted me on those grounds.

    I worked even harder for him after that, and I still do.

    The lesson to be learned? When corrected by a wiser person (or a reasonable facsimile), do not take this personally, for if you are committed to your art, you will not take it personally, but rather study harder -- or realize that you are labouring in the wrong field. When the conductor of the SF Symphony told the woman to sit down, he was doing her a favour, most likely saving her and her instructors a great deal of time -- she must have had to re-evaluate her decision to take part in that field. That's very valuable feedback, the same feedback that is given freely here.

    --t. alex

    "Nyahhh (munch, munch) What's up, Doc?" --Bugs Bunny

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