Why Scheme for Introductory Programming?

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Scheme in the Real World

Who uses Scheme or Lisp in the real world? Actually, quite a lot of people.

However, industrial uses of Scheme are sorta beside the point. If you're teaching students who need to get programming jobs next month, you teach them whatever is currently "hot" in industry. If you're teaching students who need to become good programmers, you teach them whatever will allow you to best teach the habits and principles of good programming -- which is not necessarily the same thing! Or as Prabhakar Ragde puts it,
Ever visit a gym? You were wasting your time. I've never seen a Nautilus machine or a treadmill outside a gym. Barbells -- repeatedly lifting two balanced weights connected by a narrower piece of metal -- completely contrived and artificial...

At the high end, Scheme has long had a number of features that other languages have only recently added, e.g. lexical closures (as in Python, Ruby, C#, and Perl 5) and continuations (as in Ruby).

Questions and Answers

To find other schools and teachers who use this approach, try a Google search for htdp.org or a Google search for drscheme.org.

Last modified:
Stephen Bloch / sbloch@adelphi.edu