Should Coding Qualify for Foreign Language Requirement?

Posted by Betsy Weigle on 12/8/2014 8:00:00 AM

In this recent Edutopia article the authors suggest that computer science could fill their state's high school foreign language requirement. Coding is technically a language that is foreign to most students. 
If we think about language study and why it is a requirement for all students, we must consider the benefits of learning a foreign language:
  • learning signs or symbols for written communication challenges the brain to recognize different patterns
  • learning rules for communication forces the brain to negotiate meaning quickly
  • learning to multitask between language structures strengthens connections between all languages
Coding certainly involves very specific rules (if the coding is to perform correctly) and a distinct vocabulary - as does any foreign language. But, uniquely, programming or coding is a global language. According to the authors, it is more common than spoken languages.
Consider some facts:
  • Computer programming jobs are growing at twice the national average yet less than 3% of college graduates have a degree in computer science.
  • Only 10% of high schools have computer programming classes. 
  • Only 30% of states allow computer science to fulfill a math or science graduation requirement. 
As we consider the importance of  the language of computer programming, we should consider this: 
 "In the past, the digital divide described students with technology compared to those without. Today, the divide addresses students who receive instruction on how to do things with technology versus those learning how to make technology do things. Now that computer science is the highest paid career for college graduates, it is time to stop teaching students how to pushthe buttons and start teaching them how to make the buttons."