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Re: perhaps I've missed something ...

>  Could you save pointing out the obvious to your beginning students,
>  instead of to someone who has been in the programming-languages field
>  as long as you have or longer?

Then why do you suggest that they are the same concept? Worse, why do you
suggest using the same syntactic construction for both? Programming isn't 
about the fewest number of syntactic forms or names. 

>  At least for top-level environments, the two forms are equivalent.

I don't even understand this claim. What does it mean? 

AND: Why would you ever use set! on top-level variables except for
pedagogic reasons?

>  >    If it weren't for set!, Scheme would be a perfect data-oriented
>  >    language on top of mathematics (and thus mathematical reasoning). 

>  And pray how is set! different from set-field-of-something! in this respect?

That's what I mean. Read Felleisen-Friedman POPL 87, LISP88, and
Felleisen-Hieb TCS 91. Read Crank-Felleisen POPL 90. Read Mason's
dissertation (Stanford 87) and Mason-Talcott's series of papers.

-- Matthias