If bill passes, two years of comp sci would count towards university admission
I'm not sure how how I feel about this...
Two Washington state legislators have recently introduced a bill that would allow computer science class (e.g., programming) to effectively count as a foreign language requirement for the purposes of in-state college admissions. On Wednesday, it was presented before the Washington State House of Representatives Committee on Higher Education.
House Bill 1445 would amend current state law, which only recognizes “any natural language” that is “formally studied... including a Native American language, American Sign Language, Latin, or ancient Greek.”
This isn’t the first time that such a bill has been attempted: in fact, Kentucky legislators haveintroduced a similar provision this year, too.
The bill’s author, Representative Chris Reykdal told Ars that while he does believe in a “well-rounded” education including foreign language, most students end up studying a language for the first time in high school—far too late to usually be effective.
“If we were serious we would put language in our elementary schools when the brain is mapping in a different way, and we would have kids fluent by 6th or 7th grade,” he said. “By high school it's just a way for kids to get into college. If we're serious about language, we should embed it earlier.”
But, he pointed out, high-paid computer science jobs are growing far faster than people can fill them. So why not take advantage of the labor disparity?
Ein bisschen Deutsch?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “employment of computer and information research scientists is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.”
“We consistently hear about kids that are not getting jobs as they're going overseas,” Reykdal added. “It strikes me that we don't give kids a meaningful shot in getting some computer science basics before they go to university.”
The bill's co-sponsor, Representative Chad Magendanz (a Republican, software developer to boot, and Ars reader), described his interest in the bill as being as “less enthusiastic" than Reykdal.
Magendanz just wants students to “have a conversation” about the merit of high school language education and isn’t necessarily as sold on the bill’s passage.
“We have a mismatch between our priorities—claiming that world languages are an important requirement for going to college—but there's a drive to make that as a graduation requirement and yet there's not a commitment at K-12 or higher education to make that happen,” Magendanz said.
Some though, are worried that by making computer science classes serve as an incentive for college admissions will automatically have a negative effect on traditional foreign language classes.
“I’ve nothing against students learning more about programming, but it’s I think it’s a disingenuous way of getting around foreign language requirements,” Patrick Cox, an editor on PRI’s The World, and the host of The World in Words podcast, told Ars by e-mail.
“It’s an indication of the low value that many American politicians—and unfortunately, educators—place on foreign language learning. No linguist I know of buys the argument that a computer programming language is even close to a natural language and should be treated as such.”
So what languages do the bill’s co-sponsors speak? Reykdal said he has studied "three years of German in high school and I can barely speak a lick of it today!"
For his part Magendanz has studied “a little German, took Spanish and Italian in high school, and I learned survival terms in southeast Asia."
“I’ve been a software developer for 20 years, which certainly wouldn't help me communicate as I’m trying to do business in other countries,” he added. “We introduce our kids to foreign language at a late age, we don't have the opportunity to become fluent.”