High schoolers in Kentucky who are bound for college need to have two credits of foreign language, but their high school schedules can get a bit cramped with all of the requirements, making it difficult to fit in important classes such as computer science. Kentucky has come up with a solution to combat this problem.
Late last month, the Kentucky Senate passed a bill to allow computer science to count for high school foreign language. This allows students to really delve deeply into computer science while still in high school, freeing up their schedule for more intense study.
As a former computer science major, and one who took a great deal of computer science in high school (along with my three credits of Spanish, but my high school had longer days and more educational options), this makes me happy. I love the idea of more students learning the kind of thinking that is required for computer processes. They can decide whether or not they like it before taking college classes, and for those that continue on, they will have a head start.
However, it also makes me sad. Foreign languages, such as Spanish, French, Latin, German, Russian, Korean, and others, require a different kind of learning and thinking from computer science. We don’t walk around speaking in Pascal, Java, or C++. Computer science and languages are tools. Spoken and written languages are communication methods. So my opinion on the matter is that it is wonderful to encourage computer science classes in school, but I don’t believe it is a one-to-one swap of foreign languages. I don’t believe we should drop one important subject for another.
Even if Kentucky doesn’t believe that computer science is a “language” in the same sense, this move is deprioritizing foreign languages in a world where it is constantly more important to understand other cultures. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest a longer school day to fit in both, but public education isn’t terribly efficient as it is. I’m sure there would be better ways to find room for computer science classes.
Time may tell how well Kentucky succeeds using this plan. I hope they report back.