Why Undergraduates Should Learn the Principles of Programming Languages

SIGPLAN's Education Board has produced a document describing why undergraduate education in programming languages is essential. It's aimed at academics who are not specialists in programming languages. Please read and comment to help SIGPLAN improve it!

Glad we have a committee to tell us that CS undergrads should study CS.

Kidding aside, though, it's a good paper. They stress something that's the key to learning CS, I think: combined theory and application.

A CS degree should not be trying to pick one or even a few languages to practice the fundamentals on. Each time I've learned a new language it's been a revelation, and I'd say any CS degree worth its salt will require learning at least a dozen different languages.

Each language also represents a community of interest, and you need to see what issues they're dealing with and the strategies and patterns they use to solve problems. Many mathematical problems are solved best by phrasing the question correctly and then having the answer derive from it naturally. And the key to being able to do that is to be comfortable in many languages so you can ask that question.
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