Computer classes should teach regular expressions to kids

My latest Guardian column is "Here's what ICT should really teach kids: how to do regular expressions," and it makes the case for including regular expressions in foundational IT and computer science courses. Regexp offer incredible power to normal people in their normal computing tasks, and we treat them as deep comp-sci, instead of something everyone should learn alongside typing.

I think that technical people underestimate how useful regexps are for "normal" people, whether a receptionist labouriously copy-pasting all the surnames from a word-processor document into a spreadsheet, a school administrator trying to import an old set of school records into a new system, or a mechanic hunting through a parts list for specific numbers.

The reason technical people forget this is that once you know regexps, they become second nature. Any search that involves more than a few criteria is almost certainly easier to put into a regexp, even if your recollection of the specifics is fuzzy enough that you need to quickly look up some syntax online.

Here's what ICT should really teach kids: how to do regular expressions