Programming Trade School

I think that the education of my fellow countrymen would be better served not by a system of general education but by a plethora of specific and targeted trade and skills schools. To that end I wish to design a workable trade schools in building programming skills.


  • Will have teaser lectures about some concepts on YouTube.
  • Rest of the class will be sold as a package deal (neighborhood of $300), work at your own pace.
  • For targeted, intense, learning, visit the campus (actually a hotel I purchased with rooms decked out for pair programming. Got the hotel idea from Tom of SOLE).
  • Have affiliations with companies that guarantee our top students good jobs. (these companies are effectively outsourcing the recruitment and training to us.) Can also function as a talent agency, doing a psych profile about what area (embedded, systems, web, etc.) fits each student best, and matching them up to available company positions. [Steve Kurti — 111120]
  • If the curriculum is a sequence of classes, have entrance exams, and never have an exit exam determine the grade (even better not to have grades). Goal is to get the teacher to take the role of XP coach or a player on the student’s team; grades make the student/teacher relationship too adversarial.
  • Can also function as a job placement agency. Assessing student skills and matching them to employers. If you can pitch it the idea to the companies, perhaps they can subsidize enough, through kick-backs, so that tuition becomes free. [Alex Thornton — 120112] That solves the problem of lower income viewing education as a cost rather than investment.
  • Online instruction allows for a collection of ‘advanced topics’ skills-based tricks-of-the trade, rules-of-thumb for (a) distributed computing (b) heuristics development for search/indexing/query processing (c) data management/updating (d) etc… Will assume competency in programming, student only wants to know a particular kind of development.
    • Examples and Inspiration
    • Engines of Democracy GE’s Durham plant makes jet engines reliably and at low cost, using a team-driven no-bureaucracy flat consensus organization. “They don’t really think that their main job is to make jet engines. They think that their main job is to make jet engines better.”
    • General Assembly, fast-paced, student centered, many one-off practice courses, all about Entrepreneurial Skills. Receives funding and attention from existing power houses (Bezos, Goog, MS).
    • Long Term Project Based with students teaching each other after the first 1.5 yr project.
    • 50 Teachers who are Social Media Stars
    • Kahn Academy and the DATA that could support it. IDEA: Level-Up! your skills as you would in a game.
    • antiRTFM’s YouTube’s channel of 10 minute C++ lessons
    • Wikipedia article on Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
    • Western Governors has online semesters starting every 2 weeks.
    • Emphasize the Edupunk approach.
    • Tommorow’s College by American Radioworks documents how new methods in learning are changing the educational landscape (Don’t Lecture Me, is an especially good program)
    • Tennessee’s technology centers provide trade skills at low cost.
    • “Who needs an English Major?” points out that Berea college offers free tuition.
    • Weiman explains how people learn in “Science Education in the 21st Century: Using the Tools of Science to Teach Science
    • Christensen became one of Harvard University’s most distinguished teachers, named to a university professorship and invited to conduct teaching seminars for his fellow faculty members. But he never lost his feeling of sympathy for teachers and students terrified by the first day of class. Even as he engaged in leading-edge scholarship, pioneering what would become the field of corporate strategy, he made a science of the task of building confidence in learners. He articulate the principles he discovered with pith and power:

      • Because students relate to one another as peers, they can often communicate more effectively than the instructor in class.
      • Every student teaches and every teacher learns.
      • I believe that teaching is a moral act.
      • I believe that what my students become is as important as what they learn. The endpoint of teaching is as much human as intellectual growth. Where qualities of persona are as central as qualities of mind — as is true in all professional education — we must engage the whole being of students so that they become open and receptive to multiple levels of understanding. And we must engage our whole selves as well. I teach not only what I know, but what I am.

      — The Innovative University, pg 162.


  • A two-year program culminating in a compiler construction class. See “How Compiler Construction remains Relevant” in the blog.
  • Must focus each class on building one piece of a portfolio of work, that demonstrates the student knows their stuff, and which can be used to obtain a job (advertise oneself) (Wallingford agrees)
  • The portfolio should reflect exactly those skills which large companies (MS, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, etc.) are looking to hire.
  • Should we do a work-study program: can be good to sideline as a job placement agency.

The compiler course must integrate all of the following elements:

  • testing
  • XP practices
  • Debugging techniques
  • Refactorings (Iterative design by extending underlying language. ex. by adding lexically scoped variables)
  • Design Patterns (Decorator, Visitor, Composite)
  • Demonstrates the memory model explicitly (stack vs heap)


Educational Philosophy

  • Incorporates learning psychology into a practice of XP.
  • Assignments include motivation of design patterns and abstraction, before each specific one is introduced. Motivate the problem, discuss possible solutions, then collectively arrive at the wisdom in the book.
  • Engagement through the planning game, generating performance metrics, self-assessment, perhaps competition.

We learn by:

  • practicing
  • discussion, analysis, evaluation of alternatives
  • working in pairs (XP-style)
  • ESR, How to become a hacker
  • not lecturing: 20 reasons why.
  • todo: read Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save Our Schools, by Roger Schank.

Founded on principles in the field of Mind, Brain and Education.

Fortunately, research is available to help parents, teachers and school administrators do just that. In recent years, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists and educational psychologists have made a series of remarkable discoveries about how the human brain learns. They have founded a new discipline, known as Mind, Brain and Education, that is devoted to understanding and improving the ways in which children absorb, retain and apply knowledge.



  1. job placement agency. Who’s hiring what languages? what other skills do they need? lang + skills -→ target employers. have lunch with headhunter; hr reps and ask what they are looking for.
  2. then build cirriculum. which targets exactly that.
  3. Look also at government funding initiatives (as well as private and corporate philanthropy); but don’t accept money with strings attached.
  4. Participate in a Tech Coast Angel competition
  5. Investigate funding from: Donald Bren, Bill + Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation. These guys are interested in promoting education.
  6. Steve Blank on Top Mistakes That Startups Make: Building growth is not the same skill set as Founding. Have to find a solid management/organization team. Spend the money on growth only after finding the business model. Press isn’t product; focus on customers.

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