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We've now had two questions address this issue:

What can Snap! do that Scratch cannot?

Scheme vs Haskell for introducing functional programming

I can see further questions coming down the line in the same vein, such as the languages that might be stronger or more advantageous for preparing students for the AP CS Principles Explore Task.

Can we take for granted that we are asking these questions within a pedagogical context since that is implicit in the name of our site?

I spent some time reading "Good Subjective, Bad Subjective" and keep coming back to the idea that questions should lead to answers, not just discussion. I do believe these two questions (and similar future ones) could fall into the category of "Good Subjective" and remain on-topic so long as they are focused on classroom application/student learning.

In terms of the six criteria laid out there...

  1. There can certainly be a "why" or "how" to one language's strength in a particular context.
  2. I do believe this type of question can encourage longer, rather than shorter, answers.
  3. In terms of language features, there are objective, factual, impartial elements that differentiate them.
  4. Ideally, educators would share teaching experiences with each/either.
  5. The opinions must be supported (see above).
  6. It's not simply for fun: the intent is the practical application of one language over another.

I'd love further thoughts on this since we are bound to encounter a language question often.

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I may be biased as the asker of one of those questions, but if my goal is to teach about stack frames in function calls in order to set the stage for buffer overflow attacks, there are huge implications to choosing some sort of assembly language vs choosing C, and while either language can be used quite effectively, there are some real tradeoffs to consider. Similarly, if I want to teach Object Oriented programming, there are tradeoffs in choosing between Python and Java.

The truth is that, when designing coursework where the language is an option, language becomes one of the first choices that you need to make. If you're not intimately familiar with the languages in question before you begin, talking to others in the trenches who have taught with these languages before can be a great help. After all, you're facing a decision that shapes the rest of the coursework in ways that you might not be able to foresee. I feel like there must be a place for questions of this nature here.

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Both of the linked questions seem suitable for this site. Asking 'is the choice between A, B for teaching subjective' can be answered definitively:

  • A is maybe better in the real world, but you're unlikely to see this in class.
  • No, they're really interchangeable although people have strong views.
  • They're interchangeable, but there are more good books for B.
  • A is established, but B is new and seems likely to become popular. There are not many books and example material right now.

Now, these answers are subjective to some extent, but there are clear differences between them. The answers are also useful, even without the precision of a non-subjective question.

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