I take issue with that quote from Dijkstra, possibly because BASIC (with line numbers) was my first language. While BASIC did not teach me much about structuring my code, it was a vehicle for me to solve a lot of problems for a number of years. I didn't find that it hindered me in my studies either. Programming classes have always been easier for me than other subjects.
The quote itself seems intrinsically ignorant, which is quite surprising for someone of Dijkstra's intellectual stature. I hope it has been taken terribly out of context (do you have a link to the full text?)
The quote was part of a debate on structured programming. Yes, he overstated his case. No, he was not ignorant, any more than Joel Spolsky was ignorant to accuse "java schools" of weakening computer science education. They were both wrong in important ways, but they were both putting their finger on something worth thinking about, and that is the way computer scientists are trained from the early days and how that affects their thinking about programming later on.
Dijkstra's contention was uttered in opposition to a movement to use BASIC as an introductory language for students - he wanted students to learn good programming habits and good thinking habits from the start, so he wouldn't have to correct those habits later.
I think he was probably right, and the world seems to have agreed, in that BASIC is pretty much dead. I personally would never teach a student BASIC today - of any flavor, including the ghastly abominations Microsoft is still keeping on the respirator, and certainly not the line-numbered crap that I used on the DEC Rainbow and the Apple ][. In the '80s, that was what we had and we worked with it. It's not the '80s now, life's too short to make someone else live your nostalgia. Move on. Let it go.
EDIT: If you want to review EWD's writing, here's an archive of his short work
This post has been edited by jon.kiparsky: 23 June 2013 - 08:47 PM