In high school you may have taken Spanish or French to fulfill a foreign language requirement. In an age where we are constantly using new technology to communicate, should we learn how to better communicate with computers and phones? And should those classes count as learning a second language? Some lawmakers want to make that happen.
State Senator Jeff Brandes is pushing for coding to be an accepted substitution for a foreign language requirement in Florida.
“We think there are about 20,000 jobs in Florida available for students with these types of skills. This will accelerate their ability to access those professions,” said Senator Brandes.
Brandes introduced a bill that would make computer coding an acceptable foreign language credit, and would require Florida universities to honor it during the admission process.
It's a controversial topic that caught the attention of LULAC Florida. The organization is not against coding, but doesn't see it as an appropriate sub for a second language. They worry it would make US students less competitive.
“When our kids compete in the job market you have a lot of kids from other countries that compete for these jobs because they are able to communicate with other languages, while our children are monolingual,” said Mari Corugedo, LULAC Florida State Director.
But Senator Brandes argues it's just another option and helps students compete in a changing work environment.
“It's really up to the parents and choices about their future. We want to make sure they have all the options on the table to make sure schools align with what will be the best outcome for future employment,” said Brandes.
Computer coding is already taught in some schools, including Middleton High School in Tampa.
“Computer coding is essentially a language that talks to the computer. Computers speak in 0 and 1 and we need to understand those 0 and1. So this language creates a way for us to speak in those 0 and 1 to the computer,” explained teacher Susan Black.
Mrs. Black has been teaching this class for three years. She explains after the basics, you build on that foundation.
“When students learn Java, or Java script and they want to learn Python they can pick it up because it has similar structure,” said Black.
Language requirement or not, students like junior Stephen McCruden say they’re gaining valuable skills that will be useful in many fields.
“If you want to be an entrepreneur you don't have to pay someone to make a website for you,” explained McCruden.
The Florida House and the Florida Senate both have different versions of the bill. The Senate version still includes language that would require state universities to count coding as a foreign language requirement. House lawmakers took that language out of their bill, but, among other things, did authorize schools to offer coding classes. With just under three weeks left in session, lawmakers still have to work through some items on the bills. 10News will keep you posted as session continues and lawmakers debate these bills.