Wow, A lot of good points here!
A. Your point on success being contingent on one's educational level is an excellent point. Funny, it makes perfect sense now that you say it, but it occurred to me only subconsciously before. I took a psych class once, and the jerk of prof. kept saying shite like "Past Success Is the Best Predictor of Future Success" and that pissed me off bc it seemed too rigid but had the ring of truth.
I don't know how many Meet-up web dev sessions I've been to and wondered how different things might be if some inner-city kid had better access to teachers and resources.
Since I have never taken C or Java, I can't say which is better over HTML/CSS. Not being a computer science student, I wonder what basic concepts I am missing. But I do believe that hitting kids (or adults? I don't know so much...) at the right time can make their little brains bend easily around all sorts of tricky topics.
But you are so right to say let kids or people gravitate to what they like.
Is this more of an aside or a discussion on education theory, don't know. ;)
I get what your professor was trying to say, but I disagree with them. Mainly, past success is only a good predictor of future success if nothing changes (or only insignificant things change). Our world changes quite fast, and companies that were household names 20 years ago are forgotten today.
There's a lot that we can do to change outcomes for people. Your education level and interests guide how we can introduce you to programming. It only becomes a filter when we don't strengthen and increase the person's understanding. Although, it is difficult to compete with people who have a lot of/more experience with concepts you're unfamiliar with.
For me, there isn't a best programming language. Each language is a tool, and which tool you use depends on what you are trying to build. If you want to make a static web page, knowing C won't help you. HTML & CSS are the language of websites. If you want to program a microprocessor to perform a specific task, then knowing HTML & CSS won't get you far. There are some things that are common between languages, variables, arrays, dictionaries, looping, conditionals. Having a good understanding of these topics helps you pick up new languages faster.
HTML/CSS is often a gateway into software development and engineering because it's easier to make it fun. However, I think you could grab people's attention with other types of languages as well. C and Java hooked me just fine. 😂
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