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It’s All Geek to Me

New Mexico state Sen. Jacob Candelaria (D) proposed a bill that would allow computer programming to satisfy the state’s foreign language requirement.

“Districts could still teach Latin, French or Spanish, but it provides the incentive for them to incorporate (computer) coding into their curriculum without it being an unfunded mandate,” Candelaria told The Albuquerque Journal.

Candelaria’s Senate Bill 148 doesn’t require that students learn a specific computer code, but rather a “modern, widely used” language. If signed into law, Candelaria’s bill would be implemented by Fall 2014.

While Texas already passed similar legislation, Kentucky has made a move to allow computer programming language courses to be accepted as a foreign-language credit in public schools. Senate Bill 16 also amends Kentucky law to ensure that state universities accept computer programming as foreign-language credits for admissions.
The stated intention is to help Kentuckians better compete in the high-tech information age but its negative effect on Kentucky’s language learning efforts have largely been neglected.
Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg) made the case for the change claiming that unfilled computer programming jobs start at $60,000 to $75,000 a year. See video:

However, back in New Mexico with its robust Spanish-speaking population, Albuquerque Public Schools Board President Marty Esquivel is skeptical of Candelaria’s efforts.

“I think we in a society should stress being bilingual,” Esquivel explained.

The efforts to make computer programming codes a foreign language go all the way to the U.S. Congress, where Rep. Tony Cardenas (D) from California introduced the 416d65726963612043616e20436f646520 Act of 2013, or the hexadecimal code translation of the America Can Code Act of 2013. In the bill, Cardenas cites the statistic that only 2% of STEM graduates are computer science majors, while 60% of STEM jobs are in the computer field.

“The very name of this law demonstrates that programming is simply another language,” said Cárdenas in a press release. “Learning and communicating in a foreign language can have a tremendous impact on a student, both culturally and educationally. Computer programming creates a similar impact, while also providing a critical skill in today’s global economy.”

A key aspect of the bill would be to redefine computer programming as a critical foreign language and including this new definition in the America COMPETES Act.

“American students should continue to receive the understanding of other cultures that foreign language learning creates, but we should also be preparing American kids to compete in the world marketplace,” continued Cárdenas. “Millions of jobs are being created in America, and all over the globe, requiring some level of coding knowledge. Let’s get American kids ready to compete for American jobs.”

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