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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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:26PM (#46068815)

    Kentucky: English Language = Foreign Language

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 25, 2014 @09:28PM (#46069927)

      Kentucky: Language = Foreign
                          Bourbon = economy
                          Guns = Free Speech

    • Re:headline fix (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wonkavader (605434) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @09:40PM (#46069985)

      I think you're missing the real point here. Computer languages are NOT foreign languages. Foreign languages teach mental dexterity in the verbal domain and allow people to experiences worldviews other than their own. Computer languages teach systematic thinking.

      So what you really need here is:

      "Kentucky: Logic = Foreign Language."

      • Some Universities in Florida have been doing this (sub computer language for foreign) since I was in High School, 30 years ago.

        I know /. doesn't carry the newest news, but please.... just because Kentucky is considering it now?

      • by TeknoHog (164938)

        I think you're missing the real point here. Computer languages are NOT foreign languages. Foreign languages teach mental dexterity in the verbal domain and allow people to experiences worldviews other than their own. Computer languages teach systematic thinking.

        You're not a programmer, are you? Good programmers are often both verbally and mathematically talented, and they take great advantage of the language as an art form, not just a system of doing calculations. Being a pure mathematician or a linguist won't necessarily make a great programmer, but a certain combination often does. Then again, I think math is a language and artform in the same way.

      • by Dunbal (464142) *

        Foreign languages teach mental dexterity in the verbal domain and allow people to experiences worldviews other than their own.

        No I'm pretty sure that "foreign" languages exist so that people in "foreign parts" can communicate with each other, not simply to entertain and culturally enrich Americans. Besides you cannot learn "culture" through language. You have to actually er, live the culture. I don't base this on "stuff I saw on a travel documentary", I've actually lived all my life in several foreign countries and I am fluent in 4 languages. The "cultural enrichment" aspect of learning/speaking a foreign language is good only for

  • foreign to Kentucky. sure, go ahead. HS degrees are so valuable.
    • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki&gmail,com> on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:46PM (#46068975) Homepage

      In Ontario we used to have this thing called OAC(Grade 13) which gave you equivalent degrees or partial credits towards university. So in a sense, they can be valuable. When they killed and gutted grade 13 here, the quality of students entering university dropped through the floor.

      • by JustOK (667959)
        And you had to have that to get financing for a car, furniture etc
      • 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.

  • you know (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:29PM (#46068847)

    I want to mock kentucky, because it's the right thing to do, but this actually kind of makes some sense.

    • Re:you know (Score:5, Funny)

      by MrEricSir (398214) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:59PM (#46069039) Homepage

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

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

        Actually, anyone can do just that [apple.com] these days.

      • 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.

        • 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".

        • by rusty0101 (565565)

          The blame lies firmly in where the colleges and universities are getting their funding, and the fact that many states, including mine, have upgraded the status of 'technical schools' to 'colleges' rather than recognizing that there is a difference and that becoming a programmer is a technical school program, rather than a BS or Masters degree program in a college or university.

          However as most universities are continuing to look for funding from businesses who really couldn't care less about having a well ro

      • by quenda (644621)

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

        Not a problem in Kentucky. Most of them don't even own passports.

        http://www.theatlantic.com/nat... [theatlantic.com]

  • by innocent_white_lamb (151825) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:29PM (#46068855)

    Good to know if I ever need a federal government job...

    Sheesh.

    This is either someone trying to beat the system, or perhaps the system beating itself to some degree. Why is the plain meaning of "foreign language" in an English-speaking country even up for debate?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ceoyoyo (59147)

      In Canada most universities will accept math to fulfill a grade 12-level second language requirement, and have for decades. The point is not that you can order a beer in some other country while on vacation, it's that your brain has been stretched in the right direction. It makes sense.

      Federal government jobs require that you actually speak French (and English) well enough to serve someone in that language, because there the point is that you actually speak the second language. That's well beyond what a

      • by Etherwalk (681268)

        Federal government jobs require that you actually speak French (and English) well enough to serve someone in that language

        That is the theory, not the actual practice. Canadian government jobs require that you pass tests that are substantially more difficult than you need in order to serve French speakers, because the French-speaking lobby is politically powerful. A good part of it is a waste of money and I know people who have been unable to advance in government, despite having no problem communicating with French-speakers, because they are unable to pass the test.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          You can always complain that a test is too hard or too easy. I think it's pretty ridiculous that a government employee in Whitehorse has to be able to speak French while the ones in Montreal often sigh as if speaking to you in English is a major ordeal, but that's irrelevant to the discussion. The point is that the second language requirement for government service and the one for getting into university have different intentions and the OPs conflation of the two is misleading.

    • As someone who grew up bilingual, I used to list computer languages along with the bits and pieces of a few other languages (spoken and signed) when applying to college. I remain convinced that my experience with human languages has made me a better programmer, and am willing to bet the reverse as well -- grammar and syntax are two sides of the same coin. I think that it's *culturally* important to learn more human languages, but from a purely academic standpoint I'll take a student with French or C++ ove
  • 2.4% duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by danomatika (1977210) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:33PM (#46068877)

    national statistics showing that less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science

    Only 2.4% percent, well yeah ... it's only CS people. Since when did technology development only depend on CS graduates? Last I checked, there are more and more focus/applied degrees every year which would probably take care of a good number of those positions. Not every job needs a theoretical background, and all of those job postings for "App Developers" probably don't require a hardcore degree a this point ...

    • 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.

      • by OneAhead (1495535)
        Who in hell modded this troll? To that person: you're supposed to base your moderation on the merits of the post, not on the person writing them. I've had my differences of opinion with the author, but this is a damn insightful post, and if some aspect of it is troll-ish, I just don't see it, so please enlighten me. There are few things as harmful to slashdot as moderators abusing their mod points to fight petty vendettas.
  • 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 amiga3D (567632) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @07:01PM (#46069047)

      Which entirely misses the point of a broad education. If you look at it that way we'd do basic courses in the first 6 grades then farm everyone not going to college to a trade school. I believe there is a certain amount of general knowledge everyone should have so that a society can function. The problem in the last few decades is we've allowed too much dumbing down and now we're reaping what we've sowed.

      • 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.

    • by westlake (615356)

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

      How many of your high school classmates became programmers? How many have spent more than a week abroad? How many are working in environments where language skills are a marketable asset?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 call

  • 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?

    • by johnjaydk (584895) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:49PM (#46068989)

      Why is there a foreign language requirement anyway?

      Yesterday, my best friend spoke to an american supplier and told them that he wanted the goods shipped to Europe. Not some weird, small country but Europe. The supplier asked where Europe was in the US.

      I think You guys could do with a foreign langue or two. Not to mention geography...

      • by HiThere (15173)

        The thing is, if geography is skipped, does a foreign language make any sense?

        Actually, I would argue that it does, or can. But, OTOH, if you haven't learned basic geography, you probably won't be the kind of person who will benefit from a foreign language. (It's not the rote memorization that helps, it's the learning to think with a different grammar. And a different division of the world. E.g. in French every noun must be either masculine for feminine. In German, little girls are neuter, and rivers a

      • by CODiNE (27417)

        Everybody knows Paris is in Texas.

        He's still an idiot though.

      • by Dan East (318230) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @07:45PM (#46069303) Homepage Journal

        I call bs on your little anecdote. If someone was told to ship something to a place they weren't familiar with, they wouldn't ask "where in the US is that?". They would simply ask "where is that?" because they are already in this country and obviously assumed it was simply a place they didn't know about. Further I have never met anyone, no matter how uneducated, who did not know what Europe was.

      • by Simonetta (207550)

        Europe is nothing more than a bunch of weird small countries. Always has been, always will be.

        Lighten up on the Americans. Their famed lack of precision knowledge in any individual field is basically inconsequential now that there are Google computers that can instantly deliver the general facts that we laugh at them for not knowing.

        Here's your best friend's conversation:

        (American receptionist) Hello,
        (your best friend) Allo Bonjour Est-ce que vous parlez francais? Je voudrais que mon order soit avait

    • 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 Shados (741919)

        You never learned of subjunctive, conditional, imperative, indicative? All native english speakers I talk to said they did.

        French is my first language, and it is pretty silly with all its extra tenses. Not too sure what it brought to your life to learn them...

        • by Simonetta (207550)

          You never learned of subjunctive, conditional, imperative, indicative? All native english speakers I talk to said they did.

          -- They learned a few of those terms when studying french. There's only one unusual use of pure subjunctive mode in English that I know of: the grammatically correct use of "if I were..." instead of the common form "if I was..."

          French needs all of its tenses because it has such a high percentage of vowel-based phonemic constructions and the tenses (with all their slightly different

      • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @08:38PM (#46069633) Homepage

        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

        I was = past
        I am = present
        I will be = future
        but you've never needed
        I have been = perfect
        I was being = imperfect
        I had been = pluperfect

        Pretty much all languages express the same tenses, it just depends on how. True, some languages don't have as many tenses but then it's usually indicated by word ordering or some other way. For exampe in German the difference between "I had money" and "I would have had money" is "I hatte Geld, aber.." and "Ich hätte Geld, aber...". In Norwegian it would be "Jeg hadde penger, men..." and "Hadde jeg penger, men..." and it's really all the same. In English extra words, in German new forms of words and in Norwegian different ordering of words. But the tenses exist as such and any language would have a way of expressing it.

        • by shikaisi (1816846)

          I was = past I am = present I will be = future but you've never needed I have been = perfect I was being = imperfect I had been = pluperfect

          Pretty much all languages express the same tenses, it just depends on how.

          It is far from that simple. English does not have a future tense. There are many different constructions for talking about the future, with various nuances of meaning. For example, you can say ...

          I will fly to America

          I'm going to fly to America

          I'm flying to America next week

          There are at least 12 different future constructions in common use in English, of which the above are just the most frequently used.

          Every language has its own quirks. Some languages don't bother with tenses at all. Le

  • by david.given (6740) <dg AT cowlark DOT com> on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:55PM (#46069017) Homepage Journal
    This move makes absolutely perfect sense. Soon, everyone graduating from Kentucky high schools will have above average academic qualifications. Also, the senator is a genius and extremely good looking.
  • 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 rueger (210566) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @07:17PM (#46069159) Homepage
    Seriously, there had be a "Y'all" joke somewhere.

    Or moonshine. Or bluegrass.
    • Actually we, (almost uniquely) [rstudio.com], tend to say, "you all" as often as anything else. This is especially true in Louisville. The most important thing to understand about KY is that it's an Appalachian border state. OH and IN say, "You guys" while TN and VA say, "Y'all." We try to steer between that Scylla and Charybdis. But the shine and bluegrass, yeah, some stereotypes have a basis in reality.
  • by msobkow (48369) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @07:18PM (#46069167) Homepage Journal

    This sounds a lot like the "Pizza is a vegetable" nonsense I remember reading about a few years ago.

  • I'm ok with this.
  • by cdrudge (68377)

    despite a high demand in the market and jobs that start with $60,000 salaries.In Kentucky? Starting software developer fresh out of college? $60k? Uh huh. Sure.

    • by cdrudge (68377)

      Damnit. That was suppose to read:

      despite a high demand in the market and jobs that start with $60,000 salaries.

      In Kentucky? Starting software developer fresh out of college? $60k? Uh huh. Sure.

  • 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 .

    • by Jiro (131519)

      Many Europeans know another language because they live close to a border where the people on the other side speak a different language, or they even live in a country where the people have more than one native language. They know another language because it is directly useful in their everyday life, not because knowing another language is good all by itself or because of indirect benefits like knowing the meaning of new words that are related to that language. The US is pretty big and it's a lot more comm

      • And Kentucky in particular is in the middle of the country. Most of its residents will to travel to places like Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee, or maybe even someplace exotic like Florida. Most people in Kentucky take Spanish in high school. They choose Spanish because it is sometimes spoken in Kentucky.
    • by Shados (741919)

      To go that route it has to be specific languages. English isn't my first language, yet putting aside talking to my mother, my primary language has been useful exactly once in the last 4 years. I can go out and learn Lao for giggles, that isn't exactly going to bring much to my life aside abstract cultural benefits.

      If you say we should learn some mandarin, spanish, or hindi, yeah, I guess. But many other languages will not bring much more than taking a couple of international culture classes of some kind wou

    • I have a completely opposite opinion. I think the foreign language requirement is BS. Maybe under the conditions that people who made the requirement were thinking of provided a good enough reason to make that a requirement; however, today that is NOT the case.

      At least with programming they will be exposed to logic and having to think differently in a way that is not naturally human. Yes, it's unlikely they'll get proper programming experience to have the desired impact on them, but that already is the cas

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @07:45PM (#46069301) Homepage Journal


    langs = [
    {
      "name":"C",
      "popularity": 49
    },
    {
      "name":"Java",
      "popularity": 53
    },
    {
      "name":"JavaScript",
      "popularity":82,
    },
    {
      "name":"Perl",
      "popularity": 3
    },
    {
      "name":"PHP",
      "popularity":64
    },
    {
      "name":"Python",
      "popularity":57
    }
    ];

    langs.sort(function(a,b) {
        if (a.popularity < b.popularity) { return 1; }
        if (a.popularity > b.popularity) { return -1; }
        return 0;
    });

    if (langs[0].name == 'javascript') {
        console.log("Tell me about it, seems whenever I go out drinking everyone is speaking in Javascript these days.");
    } else {
        console.log("Dude, I don't even know what you are saying");
    }

  • by Simonetta (207550) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @08:28PM (#46069573)

    Wasn't it George Gilder who said that the only languages that anyone needed to know to be successful today are English and C++?

    So what that Kentucky uses a programming language like BASIC to satisfy their foreign language 'requirement'? It's not like anyone speaks a foreign language in Kentucky. Except Spanish, and the Mexicans aren't going to know the difference between Kentuckians speaking KY_BASIC and KY_Spanish anyway.

    10 ? "I'm smart, educated, trained, and ready for world-class productivity employment"
    20 Goto 10

    Was it Bill Gates who invented using the question mark as the PRINT token? If I recall correctly, he personally brought back to life the BASIC language by writing assembly language interpreters for every microprocessor available in the 1970s. Does he speak any foreign language?

  • A programming language is technically not a "language" at all. The word "language" is used as a sort of nickname for what programming really is. That's like giving physical education credits for "web surfing" just because it has the word "surfing" in it, or biology/entomology credit for debugging just because it has the word "bug" in it.

[Crash programs] fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month. -- Wernher von Braun

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