Senate Bill Counts Coding for Language Requirement

At the end of last month, U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the Coding Opportunities and Development for Equitable Students (CODES) Act, a new competitive grant program for local education agencies (LEAs) that would be housed within the National Activities Fund (NAF) at the U.S. Department of Education. The proposal has the stated goal of “boosting high school coding programs,” but grants are awarded to schools that allow students to replace a required course in “mathematics, science, or foreign language” with computer coding.

According to a statement released by the Joint National Committee for Languages/ National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS), “S.3122 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; it currently lacks a companion bill in the House. The bill comes late in the legislative session, making its introduction a purely perfunctory measure with slim prospects for passage. However, the significance of this action cannot be understated. S.3122 signals, for the first time, that the federal government is interested in entering the debate to elevate the status of computer coding at the secondary level, perhaps with the ultimate intention of making coding a graduation requirement across the U.S. It is highly likely that we will see this bill reintroduced in upcoming legislative sessions.”

Most linguists argue that coding should not be considered a true language as it lacks the ambiguity and redundancy of a natural language.

 

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. I’m of two minds about this. I teach high school Computer Science.

    1. Programming languages are artificial. They’re unspoken. They ARE infinitely generative, as are natural languages, but in so many other ways, the two are extremely dissimilar. Spending at least 2-3 years learning a foreign language, and about the cultures where that language is spoken, is valuable (I took 10 years of French as a kid, and recently filled in teaching French for a year). It gives one an added perspective on one’s own culture as well, AND an appreciation for the immense and ongoing effort immigrants to the US must undertake to become fluent in a second language.

    2. On the other hand, recent fMRI studies have shown that programming languages are processed in the same regions of the brain that process natural languages—not math, not logic (https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~ckaestne/pdf/SKA+14.pdf). The relevance to education is that the start of meaningful automaticity and basic programming fluency—like the timeline for foreign languages—emerges after two to three years. A single semester or year of programming instruction has limited and short-lived value, and students need to take programming for at least 2 years to garner a real feel for the possibilities a programming language can offer. Students are pulled in all directions trying to fulfill graduation requirements, and as programming is an elective, it is the subject that gets the short end of the stick. I’ve had students who took 4 years of programming, AND took their foreign language in the evenings or summers at community college, but this is a lot to ask of students. For more discussion, see http://www.downtownmagnets.org/ourpages/users/srp4379/pubs/p34-portnoff.pdf

    I see legislative attempts like these less as an attempt to undermine foreign language instruction (although they do chip away at it somewhat), and more to facilitate the schedules of students who have a genuine interest in programming. A lot of my students (from immigrant families) are already bilingual, and their foreign language courses are more pro forma to satisfy graduation requirements, so easing foreign language requirements, or allowing students to satisfy them with proficiency tests might be a good thing in that respect.

    Just some thoughts…

  2. This is SO STUPID. I can speak to this. My brother codes for a living. He’s a computer programmer. I am a bilingual teacher. Neither of us are good at the other. WHY? Because coding is SCIENCE and MATH. Foreign Language is creative and has nothing to do with mathematics. Some politicians are STUPID.

    A good analogy would be the word SOAP. Soap opera and laundry soaps. But some ignorant fool who doesn’t have a clue thinks the two mean the same thing because they both contain the word SOAP. I SUCK at computer programming, but I EXCEL and foreign languages. My brother is very logical and he sucks at communication skills.

  3. WE LOST? WORLD LANGUAGE LOST? Again and again we are at the end of the totem pole. We don’t count. We don’t matter. Communication doesn’t matter. This is a sad day for all of us. This will come back to hunt us. Wow! JUST WOW!

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