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Kentucky: Programming Language = Foreign Language 426

Posted by timothy
from the take-exciting-vacations-to-$place dept.
jackb_guppy writes with word that "Legislation that would let students use computer programming courses to satisfy foreign-language requirements in public schools moved forward in the Kentucky Senate on Thursday." From the article: "Kentucky students must earn 22 credits to graduate high school, but 15 of those credits represent requirements for math, science, social studies and English — and college prerequisites call on students to have two credits of foreign language, [state senator David] Givens said. Meanwhile, Givens pointed to national statistics showing that less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science despite a high demand in the market and jobs that start with $60,000 salaries."
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Kentucky: Programming Language = Foreign Language

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  • I like this idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:35PM (#46068903)
    My highschool required 3 years of a foreign language to graduate, 0 of which I had any interest in, and only 1 (the first) had any real-life applicability (spending a week in Mexico City).

    Effectively, for me, two of those courses were a completely forced waste of time.

    Taking more classes on programming/software development would have been much more useful.
  • by turp182 (1020263) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:43PM (#46068957) Journal

    I sucked at Spanish in high school, harder than calculus. I got around language requirements in college via some comparative religion courses (which worked out great as one teacher turned me onto Hermann Hesse, changed my life).

    The only problem I see with this change is called it a Foreign Language. If it was Alternative Language I wouldn't see anything wrong with it.

    I see learning a programming language, which I assume mean learning some programming, as highly valuable to anyone. If taught properly (I've never seen this), it can provide a solid logic base (and, or, not) and a deeper understanding of decision making (conditionals).

    My wife had a total of 8 years of French and spent a semester in Paris. She hasn't used it yet and is no longer very fluent. As for applied knowledge, her spreadsheet skills are good, but she trips up on logic and conditionals.

    Why is there a foreign language requirement anyway?

  • Re:2.4% duh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by icebike (68054) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:46PM (#46068971)

    Pretty much spot on.

    I'm sure the research scientist or business major that learns a great deal about applied computer usage, including some aspect of programming, need never pass by a CS classroom or know Donald Knuth from Donald Duck. Similarly, those students that get into hardware infrastructure don't need a great deal of programming either.

    Still, the bill seems more aimed at allowing people to get out of high school without ever once encountering a Spanish word not written on a menu, than actually growing the computer literacy in the state.

  • KY SB 16 2014 (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:55PM (#46069015)

    "AN ACT relating to computer programming languages in public schools. Amend KRS 156.160 to allow computer programming language courses to be accepted as meeting foreign language requirements in the public schools; amend KRS 164.002 to define "computer programming language"; amend KRS 164.4785 to ensure that computer programming language courses be accepted as meeting foreign language requirements for admission to public postsecondary institutions."

    I don't get the backlash, especially on a tech site like Slashdot (although the /. crowd is trending more towards the reddit / digg / mouthbreathers these days). HS language courses are the biggest waste of time. Do you actually learn anything in a HS language class? Just enough to recognize the language you are reading, maybe make fun of the weird shit they do in other countries, but definitely not well enough to be able to converse. These classes only exist as justification for rich kids (you know, the ones who /don't/ have to work) to take their annual European summer vacations subsidized on the taxpayer's dime.

    A computer programming class makes so much more sense in that it allows people to learn basic logic and process management (as in, breaking down a big problem into smaller modules). This bill just expands the scope of what fills that "language" requirement.

  • Re:KY SB 16 2014 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aryden (1872756) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @07:02PM (#46069057)
    It really depends. I took Latin for 4 years. Though it is of no real applicable use to me at this time, it was a really great base for learning Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Those languages came really easy to me because of the Latin. The backlash I have with this is, the law should be that kids need 2 credits in programming AND 2 credit in a foreign language instead of this malarky.
  • Sounds good to me. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SeaFox (739806) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @07:03PM (#46069071)

    Not sure what the deal is with all the hate here in the thread. Isn't the Slashdot groupthink supposed to say that anything that exposes people to computers and programming is a good thing? Even when it's that nonsense of trying to teach primary grade-schoolers to code?

    People are a lot less likely to take a computer programming language than they are a foreign language class in high school, but I'd say the computer programming course is more valuable to them. If they take the semester or two of foreign language, they will likely have forgotten it in a couple years from non-practice and even if they did want to study further will be having to start at year one anyway in college. If they never travel to a country where they speak the language what they do learn will be limited usefulness in life. It's another one of those subjects people study to be a more rounded person. But exposure to programming means learning more about computers in general and how to operate them, that means less idiots in offices hitting "reply all" when unnecessary or looking for the "any" key. And even those who decide programming isn't for them will come away with a better understanding (and possibly respect) for those that do go into programming.

  • by radarskiy (2874255) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @07:04PM (#46069079)

    "Why is there a foreign language requirement anyway?"

    To unlearn things you "know" about language that just aren't so.

    For example, in no English class that I took was any tense other than past, present, and future named. To learn what perfect, imperfect, and pluperfect versions of those tenses were for I had to take French and translate it myself back into English

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @07:08PM (#46069105)

    Which entirely misses the point of a broad education.

    Taking programming courses is every bit as broadening as taking a language course. Just in different dimensions.

    Indeed I would hazard to say you would retain more overall from a programming course than one or two semesters of a language course.

    In no way are we dumbing down people allowing them to study computers more in depth over language.

  • Re:you know (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @07:18PM (#46069169)

    Maybe, but good luck next time you're in a foreign country trying to buy food using for loops and if statements.

    You're being modded "funny" but I think you deserve "insightful".

    I'm an old fart, but I really don't like the recent trend in colleges - and now high schools - where we're apparently moving towards a completely utilitarian education and away from attempting to develop well-rounded individuals and citizens.

    It's not all about money and what kind of job you have.

    And I must admit... I wonder if we nerds are at least partially to blame. Engineers and computer geeks often tend towards an almost Aspergers-like tunnel vision.

  • by fred911 (83970) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @07:33PM (#46069239)

    Granted, Kentucky is not representative of the whole US, but a perfect example of how we repetitively embarrass ourselves internationally.
      Most of the world is multilingual. Learning another language provides skills unrelated to coding. In addition to the obvious benefit of communication, it provides the student with a wider vocabulary and the ability to basically know the meaning of many, many new words they may hear while studying, without the use of a dictionary.
      How many Europeans know only one language? How many Indians or Chineese? Virtually none that have education.

    We've carried the big stick for too long, if you can't see that you need to have the ability to play internationally, you'll be stuck with a Kentucky education and sadly ignorant .

  • Re:you know (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rising Ape (1620461) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @08:13PM (#46069481)

    That's a very valid point, but what I remember of modern language teaching at school (French in my case) was very utilitarian. Just lots of vocabulary, conjugation rules etc. to memorise - all how to speak the language but very little as to why you'd want to bother and little of intellectual interest. Latin was better, in that we actually looked at examples of Latin literature and poetry and the Roman civilisation. Shame the language was much harder, with all the noun declensions and so forth.

    All a bit of a waste really, as there's a lot of interesting things to learn about languages. The scientific side - how they evolve over time, how various languages relate to each other - cognate words, sounds shifts etc. And the literary/cultural side for those that way inclined.

    In any case, I can't see anything that programming languages have in common with natural languages besides the word "language".

  • Re:I like this idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 25, 2014 @08:27PM (#46069567)

    My highschool required 3 years of a foreign language to graduate, 0 of which I had any interest in, and only 1 (the first) had any real-life applicability (spending a week in Mexico City).

    Effectively, for me, two of those courses were a completely forced waste of time.

    Taking more classes on programming/software development would have been much more useful.

    When I was in college/highschool I took CS and years of French and Arabic. It took me longer to graduate and many of my fellow CS students told me I was wasting my time, or that if I learned a language I should learn Chinese, but I love languages, other cultures, and technology. I studied abroad in North Africa and became fluent in both languages.

    At graduation I started out as a lowly programmer for a large company. As word got around that I was fluent in these two languages, I began to be regularly called on by upper management to travel to our international branches and meet with partners in Europe and the Middle East. I had a unique skill set: I understood the technology, and I could explain it to international partners and form relationships with them with my language skills. Over time, I quickly moved up from programming to being chief of international relations in the corporation. I'm now in my early 30s, making seven figures, married to a hot wonderful women who would have been out of my league when I was a lowly CS dork, and I get awesome travel opportunities and have had amazing international experiences.

    It's certainly helped me in my life and career and wasn't a waste of time for me.

  • Re:KY SB 16 2014 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ChunderDownunder (709234) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @08:43PM (#46069669)

    The ability to speak multiple languages, to some degree at least, is commonplace around the world. Monolingualism seems particularly severe in Anglosphere countries (including my own).

    In Australia there's been a move away from teaching European languages in favour of the languages of Asia from the trade perspective. It's also a shorter duration to fly to Japan (whose language my brother's kids are learning) than the 20 or so hours to fly from Melbourne to Vienna or Paris.

  • Re:I like this idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Simonetta (207550) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @08:49PM (#46069713)

    In 25 years the Baby Boomers will be just as influential as they are now. But there will be a lot fewer of them around.

    The English language is not dying. In fact, it is the fastest growing language in the world. When Finnish businessmen sell telephones to Indonesia in exchange for tropical wood lumber and spices, no one speaks Finnish or Indonesian. They speak English.

    Also note that in 25 years, when people who only speak English need to communicate with peasants that only speak legacy languages, they will smile gracefully and speak into a microphone and their personal-translator unit will reproduce their translated words into that legacy language.

    It's not that difficult to learn sufficient Spanish as an adult. About one third of the vocabulary is cognitively identical to English. Its grammar is functionally similar to all the other Romance languages. The Romance linguistic framework is not hard for people who have learned English in a structured school environment, because other Romance language speakers (the French and the Normans) ruled England for hundreds of years in the Middle Ages and set the grammar rules that continue to be used to this day.

  • Re:I like this idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wonkavader (605434) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @09:56PM (#46070059)

    Let me add just a bit to your comment on Spanish. Spanish is the single easiest commonly used, spoken language an American can learn. It has a TINY vocabulary (you can claim fluency knowling well less than 10,000 words). There are native speakers all around you who love talking to English speakers in Spanish (not only is it hilarious, the English speakers are buying things and helping them makes them repeat customers). It's actually USEFUL, and you can start putting it to good use right away in almost any state. Try that with German! And then there's what you said.

    ASL is also dead-easy, but it's not spoken, per se, not really written, and only useful in deaf schools. That said, you lean ASL and you can pick up other SLs accross the globe faster than anyone can pick up a new spoken language, and there's deaf folk in every country.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 25, 2014 @10:09PM (#46070153)

    What would $70,000/year get you in Chicago?

    Being in Chicago, for one. ;)
     
    Different strokes, but right now I'm in the middle of nowhere and it's fine if you have little interest in people, or entertainment, or restaurants, or a good variety of groceries, or having walking be a realistic daily mode of daily transport, or many other things. And of course the politics are more conservative, even though most of the people would at least be better off financially under liberals. The only reason I'm not going bonkers from this lifestyle is that I'm caught up in working (and it's work I enjoy), I still get out to do exercise several times a week, and I plan on leaving eventually.

  • by Bite The Pillow (3087109) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @10:51PM (#46070343)

    Advanced Placement classes give you credit at most colleges. You could spend your senior (12) year getting English, calc, physics, foreign language, and maybe a few others. The tests are relatively cheap, but since we are talking about Ky here, the governor's scholars program covers the cost for 3 if you pass. 12 credits, plus mote if you take pre tests like comp sci.
    You can get at least one semester out of the way for a few hundred dollars.

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