By Michael McGrady

A bill to allow public school students to use computer coding classes to satisfy their public college foreign language requirement is making its way through the Florida Senate.

Senate Bill 104 states it would, among other things, authorize public high schools “to offer students opportunities to take specified computer coding courses beginning with a specified school year,” mandate high schools “will not be required to offer such courses,” and require “Florida College System institutions and state universities to recognize the credits as foreign language credits.”

Florida high school students aren’t required to take a foreign language to graduate. SB 104 would mandate public colleges and universities in Florida that require foreign language credits for admission to accept coding as a foreign language.

Only five of 40 Florida senators voted against a similar bill proposed last year, which ultimately failed to gain a vote on the House floor. The Florida Senate Education Committee voted unanimously to approve SB 104 in February. If approved by the Rules Committee, SB 104 would advance to the Senate floor for a full vote.

‘Setting Up Our Kids for Success’

State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), who introduced SB 104, says his legislation would prepare kids for the future.

“[The legislature] knows that the top jobs in this country are largely based on coding,” Brandes said. “We believe that it’s part of our future and that the kids should have the option. The bill also requires that state universities and colleges see the credit as a foreign language for the purpose of setting up our kids for success. We think it’s a bold first step. We think it’s the right policy to go down this road.”

‘Calls for Customizing Instruction’

William Mattox, director of the James Madison Institute’s Marshall Center for Educational Options, says educational options are best for students.

“We are living in an age where the educational zeitgeist calls for customizing instruction to the unique needs, interests, aptitudes, and learning styles of each and every student,” Mattox said. “And while this appreciation for diversity may sometimes challenge those who cut their educational teeth in an era of uniformity, it’s important for us all to remember that schools exist for the benefit of students, not for the benefit of educrats.

“The best way to teach our children well in the 21st century isn’t to insist that they all take courses that might help them to become a diplomat instead of a software engineer,” Mattox said. “The best way to prepare Floridians for economic life in the 21st century is to recognize that students aren’t all cut from the same cloth and that we should ‘vive la difference!’”

Michael McGrady ([email protected]) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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