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Fall is in the air (in the Northern Hemisphere), and students are returning to school. That means that once again, fellow monks, Homework Time is upon us. This is the season when the internet is overrun with people who have just run headlong into the sobering fact that computer programming requires one to think logically and to Read The Fine Manual. For some, this is an opportunity to stretch, and to develop new sets of skills. For others, the net provides a way to sidestep difficult work.

Before rushing in to help someone who drops a homework problem at the Monastery's doorstop, consider this:

The person who comes today seeking help with their homework might end up being tomorrow's co-worker.
With this thought in mind, as we consider whether to lend our assistance, let us distinguish between
  1. Those who come seeking guidance, and
  2. Those who come seeking to have some problem solved for them.
The former are often worthy of assistance, particularly when they provide evidence that they've made a decent stab at their problem. Here is were we grow the community, by lending a helping hand to those who have sought first to help themselves, as other have often done for us. Even so, we must take care to not cheat the seeker out of the pleasure of solving the problem themselves. As the proverb suggests: Offer advice on fishing, rather than fish.

The latter seekers should also be handled with care. Let us be charitable, and seek first to set their feet upon the path to self knowledge. Provide hints. Point to the docs. Give the seeker an opportunity to rise to their problem. But if that fails, let their nodes be reaped.


In reply to Homework and the Monastery by dws

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