Education is a topic that often finds itself at the forefront of debates across all levels of government. Most recently, a U.S. legislator advocated that the foreign language requirement be made optional for high school students.
The Senate Bill 468 written by Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate applies to Pre-K – 12 and it, “requires high schools to offer student opportunities to take specified computer coding courses by a specific school year; requiring the Commissioner of Education to identify the computer coding courses that satisfy two credits of foreign language instruction under certain circumstance.”
If it passes, Bill 468 will go into effect July 1, 2016 in Florida. The bill also requires Florida colleges to recognize the computer credits as foreign language credits.
The current foreign language graduation requirement across many states is between one and two years. Taking a foreign language exposes children to a culture other than their own and consequently more job opportunities down the line.
As state borders weaken, the world is increasingly interconnected. The phenomenon of globalization brings people around the world closer than they have ever been before. The possibilities of business partners and transactions today are near limitless.
According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages in reference to students Pre-K – 12, “knowing other languages and understanding other cultures is a 21st Century skill set for American students as they prepare to live and work in a global society. No matter what career students enter, they will be interacting with others around the world on a routine basis and doing business locally with those whose native language is not English.”
It is wise to recognize the value of Bill 468. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace and who better to handle these technological changes than generation z, the “digital natives” themselves? It seems logical to train a generation of kids who will grow up and possess skills that will readily translate into the job market.
However, computer coding cannot and should not replace the foreign language requirement because, it is not a language. The ability to communicate with people in another language is an incredibly valuable tool. For a businesswoman or man, it is the difference between closing a multi-million dollar deal and not; for an ambassador, resolving an issue without conflict and not; and for a doctor, seamlessly communicating with a patient and not.
Learning a second language early in life is a priceless opportunity. It increases a child’s cognitive capacity, makes them more creative and gives them a glimpse into a world they have yet to experience. It is something computer coding simply cannot replace.