Kentucky Bill to Allow Programming as Foreign Language Credits

Good news for pubic school students in Kentucky. You may soon be able to take computer programming classes to satisfy your foreign language requirements! Senate Bill 16 passed the Senate Education Committee on January 23, 2014, and will soon go to the full Senate for consideration. From the Courier Journal:

Legislation that would let students use computer programming courses to satisfy foreign-language requirements in public schools moved forward in the Kentucky Senate on Thursday.

Supporters said the measure, Senate Bill 16, would help prepare students for good-paying jobs in the computer industry. It passed the Senate Education Committee on a 10-1 vote.

“This offers opportunity for students and flexibility for schools at a time when flexibility is vital,” said Sen. David Givens, a Republican from Greensburg who is sponsoring the bill.

Kentucky students must earn 22 credits to graduate high school, but 15 of those credits represent requirements for math, science, social studies and English — and college prerequisites call on students to have two credits of foreign language, Givens said.

Meanwhile, Givens pointed to national statistics showing that less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science despite a high demand in the market and jobs that start with $60,000 salaries.

A wide open – and ever growing – job market with $60,000 starting salaries! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s even better than that. They list the 2012 median pay for programmers at $74,280 per year, with a growth rate in job opportunities of 8% per year.

Programming TeacherWhen I was in elementary school, in the 4th-6th grade, we had twice-weekly 1 hour Spanish classes. In high school, I took 2 years of French, not because I was particularly interested in learning French, but because my best friend was, and we always did the same things, for no other reason than because we were best friends.

I don’t remember a lick of the French, but I do remember a good deal of the Spanish – although what we were taught at that age really wasn’t too advanced. Have I earned a living with it? No. Do I ever use it? No. Granted, if you become fluent in a foreign language, there are more job opportunities for you today than ever before. Our economy has gone global and businesses need employees that can communicate with clients that speak other languages. The US has a large and growing Hispanic population that has created a need for bi-lingual speakers in many industries.

programmer Without checking the stats, I am guessing that there are far more opportunities in computer programming. Our high-tech knowledge-based society is highly dependent on computer programmers. If I was in school now, I would jump at the chance to take programming classes to satisfy my foreign language credits.

However, not everyone agrees with my views. One commenter on the Courier Journal article had this to say about Kentucky passing this bill:

This bill is ridiculous. Computer programming is NOTHING like learning a world language. World language classes help prepare students for the communicative and cultural skills they will need to compete in a global economy. You will not learn these things in a computer programming class. We are doing a disservice to our students and our state if this bill passes.

The three comments that followed that one, although not quite as vocal, seem to agree:

Say what??? Dumb….

110001110101011…Did you understand what I just typed? I was speaking in computer programming language, trying to communicate with you.

Next up, “proper grammar” will be considered a foreign language…

 I have to respond to the 110001110101011 comment:

– هذا لا يقول شيئا  Do you understand what I just typed? Probably not. And that’s a “world” language, not a computer language. (thanks Google translate)

What is your opinion? Should programming languages satisfy foreign language requirements? Should all US schools adopt this standard? Or should we stick with “human” languages to fulfill the foreign language requirements?