Why Teach Ruby

Ruby may have a smaller place in the market. But that’s not why you should learn it.

Avi Flombaum
Nov 30, 2017 · 11 min read
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Measuring the popularity of a language is difficult but https://www.tiobe.com/tiobe-index/ includes a variety of measurements, from community index to jobs to platform.
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IEEE Spectrum also provides a more filterable idea of popularity. https://spectrum.ieee.org/static/interactive-the-top-programming-languages-2017

Don’t define yourself by your first programming language

The very idea that a programmer should be defined by their first language seems tremendously myopic to me. No programmer worth their salt defines themselves as solely a Ruby programmer or a PHP programmer. We are programmers and programming languages are just our tools; we can adapt our toolset to different circumstances and problems. Branding new programmers as “Java” or “Python” by their bootcamp seems hazardous to me, lest the student forever limit their potential by the language they were told they mastered, never taught how to learn something foreign, and lacking the confidence to see their identity outside a language. The tension of vocational schools is blending practical, market-driven, curriculum with more holistic, universal, and philosophical skills that prepare them not just for a first job, but rather a prolific career.

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We all have our favorites; they are all great; there are 100 memes like this, and ya, I didn’t make that (and am not super into every person in that being a dude except Sarah Palin), but that’s not the point of this post.

So why Ruby, then?

If the first language a school teaches is not directly tied to career outcomes and less important than meets the eye, why does Flatiron School continue to teach Ruby first instead of the new hotness that is Javascript or some other cutting-edge language like Java? What is really important about the first language a student learns?

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“The goal of Ruby is to make programmers happy. I started out to make a programming language that would make me happy, and as a side effect it’s made many, many programmers happy.”

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“Ruby is so… To code ruby is really to love, to feel passion, to feel pleasure, it stirs you inside so greatly, it’s such a beautiful language, also erotic I would say. Method calls striped, undressed of their parenthesis, chaining them together raw like… Just red ebullient jewel.”

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“I want to make Ruby users free. I want to give them the freedom to choose. People are different.”

To me, that isn’t about programming, or certainly not just about programming — it is a cultural value, the importance of freedom. To Matz, freedom is expressed by the ability to choose. What’s “right” for one person might not be “right” for another and neither are wrong; they are just different, and they should be allowed to be different without judgement. I believe in that value in life, from religious freedom to marriage equality, to political affiliation, and certainly in code.

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Learn. Love. Code.

Insights on education and tech from Flatiron School’s…

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