Coding Bills Threaten Language Requirement

The U.S. House and Senate have both introduced bills that encourage the replacement of math, science, and foreign language courses with computer coding in high schools.

In June, U.S. senators Bill Cassidy, MD (R-Louisiana), and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) 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.

On July 12, representatives Tony Cárdenas (D-California) and Pete Olson (R-Texas) introduced H.R. 6334 in the House, identical to the Senate version. 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.”

JNCL-NCLIS, the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), and others from the world language community oppose this legislation, arguing that “these bills represent an existential threat to the world language teaching community, already suffering from a teacher shortage in over 44 states, and severely undercut the progress made to expand world language study for elementary school and secondary school students.”

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

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