FAQ
[pardon me if this is not the appropriate list]

hello,

i am interested in doing an undergraduate major in computer science
that mainly focuses on python as a programming language..

i am not a very bright student and neither do i have the money to
think about universities like caltech, stanford etc. i am looking for
a university that is easy to get admitted in and yet i can get good
knowledge and education out of it.

also english is not my first language and i feel that acts against me,
but i do have a strong desire to learn.

i have read the tutorials in python.org and understand the python
programming syntax but i feel that only a computer science class is
going to teach me how to program and apply advance concepts. if any
of you happen to know good video tutorials or self study materials or
tips that can act as an alternative to going to college, would you
please mind sharing or selling for something reasonable.

thanks,
--josh

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  • Paolo Alexis Falcone at Dec 5, 2005 at 2:22 pm

    On Sun, 04 Dec 2005 17:12:45 -0800, josh wrote:

    [pardon me if this is not the appropriate list]

    hello,

    i am interested in doing an undergraduate major in computer science
    that mainly focuses on python as a programming language..

    i am not a very bright student and neither do i have the money to
    think about universities like caltech, stanford etc. i am looking for
    a university that is easy to get admitted in and yet i can get good
    knowledge and education out of it.

    also english is not my first language and i feel that acts against me,
    but i do have a strong desire to learn.

    i have read the tutorials in python.org and understand the python
    programming syntax but i feel that only a computer science class is
    going to teach me how to program and apply advance concepts. if any
    of you happen to know good video tutorials or self study materials or
    tips that can act as an alternative to going to college, would you
    please mind sharing or selling for something reasonable.
    Try looking for these online references:
    * http://www.aduni.org - website of the defunct ArsDigita University. They
    have a plethora of resources that can be downloaded, or obtained in a
    couple of DVD's
    * http://www.ibiblio.org/obp/thinkCSpy - How to think like a Computer
    Scientist: Learning with Python (checkout their bibliography too.
    * http://mitpress.mit.edu/sicp/ - Structure and Interpretation of Computer
    Programs. Not Python, but should give you a good material for functional
    programming - which is another paradigm that Python also supports.

    Try reading these (buy/steal :D) from your library:
    * The Art of Computer Programming (D. Knuth). 3 volumes and a fascicle of
    an upcoming volume. Very terse reading, but should you overcome this,
    you're on the way to computing greatness
  • Rocco Moretti at Dec 5, 2005 at 3:17 pm

    josh wrote:
    hello,

    i am interested in doing an undergraduate major in computer science
    that mainly focuses on python as a programming language..
    It's your life, so you can live it as you choose, but I think you're
    missing the point of an undergraduate education if you focus too much on
    Python programming at this point.

    Undergraduate education is (should be) about breadth. Python has a place
    there, but it isn't the be-all, end-all. There are some concepts for
    which Python isn't well suited in teaching (functional programing, logic
    programing, operating system programing, etc.). I'd hope that you go to
    a high-quality University that understands this, and teaches *concepts*,
    not programing languages.

    In the long run, it will (likely) be better for you to go to a
    University where they don't even use Python, but solidly teach concepts,
    rather than one that's so into Python that they neglect topics that are
    taught poorly in Python.

    Even if you never use Python as an undergraduate, if you have a good
    grounding in the fundamental concepts, it should be (relatively) easy
    for you to take what you've learned in (scheme/ML/prolog/assembly/forth)
    and apply it to Python. You'll have plenty of time to specialize on
    Python as a graduate student/young professional.

    Just my two cents.
  • Preston Hagar at Dec 5, 2005 at 6:15 pm

    On 12/5/05, Rocco Moretti wrote:
    josh wrote:
    hello,

    i am interested in doing an undergraduate major in computer science
    that mainly focuses on python as a programming language..
    Undergraduate education is (should be) about breadth. Python has a place
    there, but it isn't the be-all, end-all. There are some concepts for
    which Python isn't well suited in teaching (functional programing, logic
    programing, operating system programing, etc.). I'd hope that you go to
    a high-quality University that understands this, and teaches *concepts*,
    not programing languages.

    In the long run, it will (likely) be better for you to go to a
    University where they don't even use Python, but solidly teach concepts,
    rather than one that's so into Python that they neglect topics that are
    taught poorly in Python.


    Just my two cents.
    --

    I completely agree with this. I have B.S. in Computer Science from a 4 year
    university. My undergrad education was somewhat different from what I
    expected going in and very different from what I find most people think a
    computer science undergrad degree is all about. I had very few classes that
    focused only on a certain programming language, software, OS, etc. The
    only classes like that I had were just 1 hour electives. Computer science
    is more about the theory behind computing and a logical way of thinking than
    it is about a certain technology.

    As Edsger Dijkstra said, "Computer science is no more about computers than
    astronomy is about telescopes." If you are looking to learn Python
    programming and only Python programming, often (at least here in the US)
    local community colleges and/or technical schools like DeVry have programs
    that teach current technologies like Python. The good thing about these
    programs is that they are usually quicker to complete, easier, and less
    expensive when compared to a university computer science program. The
    downside is that you usually only learn what is going on now. They are
    often very weak in theory. They explain how, but not why. They might equip
    you jobs today, but what about 5 or 10 years down the road? It is likely
    that Python with be somewhat different in 5 or 10 years, or may even no
    longer be a popular language. If you only know that language constructs and
    API's of today, but don't understand why they are written or set up the way
    they are, it could be difficult to adapt or learn new ones as they mature.

    With a university computer science degree, you will quite possibly not even
    learn Python, but you will (hopefully) learn the concepts and theories that
    will make it much, much easier to learn Python or any other language down
    the road. I took a Python class in school, but it was only a one hour
    "language lab" (At my school and many schools in the US, most classes are 3
    "hour" classes and it requires 128 "hours" to graduate). It mainly focused
    on what makes Python different than other languages. I also had a 1 hour
    class in C programming. These were the only classes that only focused on
    one language. I took many other classes, such as Object-Oriented
    Programming, that used C++ or Java to show examples of the concept, but one
    language was never really taught over another. The concepts, such as OO
    programming was what was really taught. As you can see, 2 class "hours" out
    of 128 isn't that many, but I have held a job doing C++ and Python
    programming since graduation and have done well.

    Another thing a university degree gives you, especially if you go to a
    liberal arts college, is classes in business, writing, and communication. I
    have delt with many other computer professionals as well as interviewed many
    for positions and find that communication skills and business skills seem to
    be where many are lacking. I have met people that are unbelievable
    programmers, but the projects they can work on are somewhat limited because
    they cannot interact well with management or users to learn specifications
    or problems. Many see a programming position as a "loner" position where
    you write you code and don't have to interact with anyone. While I am sure
    that are some situations where this is true, most programs are useless
    unless they can be used by non-programmers. I would encourage you to not
    only take programming classes, but take a class or two in communication and
    writing skills.

    I am by no means the most knowledgeable programmer/computer guy out there,
    but I thought I would share my experiences with you.

    HTH,

    Preston
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