Education Opinion

Computer Coding Is No Substitute for Foreign Language

By Walt Gardner — March 04, 2016 1 min read

In an unprecedented move that is likely to be emulated by other states, Florida is on track to allow high-school students to count computer coding as a foreign-language requirement (“Florida Senate endorses making computer coding a foreign language,” Miami Herald, Feb. 24). The rationale is that it is a universal language indispensable for high demand careers.

I support the need for computer literacy, but I think the decision shortchanges students. Learning a foreign language involves more than being able to read, write and speak it. It also helps students understand the culture and history of other countries. The U.S. already produces too few graduates who major in foreign languages. That is particularly so in the case of strategic languages such as Mandarin, Arabic, and Farsi. By allowing high-school students to substitute computer coding, Florida exacerbates the problem. The irony is that the policy comes at a time when the state’s bilingual communities are rapidly growing.

It seems that the U.S. is dead set on converting its educational system at all levels into job-training camps. Anything that doesn’t immediately relate to getting hired is considered a frill. The trouble is that what appears to be in high demand today may not be so years later. Although education and training sometimes overlap, they are not the same. That’s a lesson Florida has not learned.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.