Joel Don’t Like No Java

By Deane Barker on December 29, 2005

The Perils of JavaSchools: Spolsky goes ballistic on Java and the dumbing down of computer science instruction in colleges. If you don’t deal with pointers and functional recurison, then don’t even think about working at Fog Creek.

As an employer, I’ve seen that the 100% Java schools have started churning out quite a few CS graduates who are simply not smart enough to work as programmers on anything more sophisticated than Yet Another Java Accounting Application, although they did manage to squeak through the newly-dumbed-down coursework.

These students would never survive 6.001 at MIT, or CS 323 at Yale, and frankly, that is one reason why, as an employer, a CS degree from MIT or Yale carries more weight than a CS degree from Duke, which recently went All-Java, or U. Penn, which replaced Scheme and ML with Java in trying to teach the class that nearly killed me and my friends, CSE121.

[…] You may be wondering if teaching object oriented programming (OOP) is a good weed-out substitute for pointers and recursion. The quick answer: no. Without debating OOP on the merits, it is just not hard enough to weed out mediocre programmers. […] OOP poses inadequate mental challenges to scare away first-year students.

If Spolsky says it, it is true. The Joel has spoken,



  1. I was going to cry at first, because I thought this was going to be another rag on Java, which I love. Then I realized that it was just about Java-only schools, something that I agree is bad. There’s a reason that I want to go to MIT or a similar caliber school for my CS/Math degrees!

  2. what’s sorely needed (admittedly in addition to an understanding of concepts like pointers and recursion) is a good sense of engineering. even back in the days that joel lauds, none of the graduates of any cs program ever had to write a piece of code that needed to be supported for more than a month or two. the absolute terrors these graduates would turn out when faced with several thousand (not to mention million) lines of code still gives me the willies, and i’ve been out of the field for nigh on 7 or 8 years now.

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