Alan Kay: The Computer Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet, OOPSLA 1997
Of course, children can learn many things without special mentoring just by experimentation, and by sharing knowledge amongst themselves. But we don’t know of any examples where this includes the great inventions of humanity such as deductive mathematics and mathematically based empirical sciences. To use an analogy: what if we were to make an inexpensive piano and put it in every classroom? The children would certainly learn to do something with it by themselves – it could be fun, it could have really expressive elements, it would certainly be a kind of music. But it would quite miss what has been invented in music over centuries by great musicians. This would be a shame with regard to music – but for science and mathematics it would be a disaster. The special processes and outlook in the latter (particularly in science) are so critical and so hidden that it is crippling not to be taught them as “skills which allow the art”. As Ed Wilson has pointed out, our genetic makeup for social interests, motivations, communication, and invention, is essentially what humans were in the Pleistocene. Much of what we call modern civilization is made from inventions such as agriculture, writing and reading, math and science, governance based on equal rights, etc. These were hard to invent, and are best learned via guides.