Florida May Let Students Get Foreign-Language Credit for Computer Coding

By Catherine Gewertz — December 09, 2015 1 min read
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The Florida legislature is considering a policy change that’s stirred up controversy in a few other places that have embraced it: allowing students to earn foreign language credit by taking computer coding classes.

The proposal still has a long way to go in the state legislature. But last week it cleared the state Senate education committee, according to the Miami Herald.

Senate Bill 468 would require high schools to provide coding classes for students, a provision that has some lawmakers worried about the cost of ensuring that schools have enough computers, and prepared teachers, to carry out the law.

But it would allow students to earn credits toward their foreign-language requirement by taking coding instead of, say, Spanish or Chinese. And it would require Florida’s public colleges and universities to recognize the coding courses as foreign language classes.

Jeremy Ring, the former Yahoo executive-turned-Democratic-lawmaker who proposed the legislation, said it is an attempt to “recognize the reality of the world and give our kids a leg up” in an increasingly global world, where computer coding is yet another language that’s valuable for students to know.

But some, including Miami-Dade County’s schools superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, don’t like the idea of coding as a substitute for Russian or French.

“We cannot approach the importance of computer science and foreign language as an either-or proposition,” Carvalho told the Miami Herald. “I absolutely disagree with the proposition that computer coding is an equal substitute—an equal and necessary substitute—for foreign language.”

Florida is not the first place to tackle this issue. As my colleague Liana Heitin has reported on the Curriculum Matters blog, Kentucky and New Mexico were considering similar provisions, and a California lawmaker introduced federal legislation that would recognize programming language as “critical foreign languages.” Additionally, one portion of a Texas law allows computer science courses to fulfill foreign-language requirements.

One strand of controversy that erupted in response to the Texas law was an argument from computer-science educators that the requirement would fuel public confusion about the difference between computer coding and computer science.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.