Habla Fortran? Oui Speak C!

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Habla Fortran? Oui Speak C!

Yes, we do call them computer languages. But, Florida has taken this idea to the limit. Computer languages now count for foreign language credit in the state's schools!

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Sen. Jeremy Ring’s (D-Parkland) introduced a bill (SB 468) which permits the study of computer languages to accrue the same credits as any other foreign language. This law was passed by the legislature and will take effect and the 2018/2019 academic year. Needless to say groups such as the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Spanish American League Against Discrimination (SALAD) are not ready to say: C. It was to be expected that we would C# criticism.

Sen. Ring justified his position by saying: “If you don’t have an understanding of technology, you will be left behind. It’s a basic skill, as much as reading and writing.” He didn't make any comments as to whether it would affect our right to (free) assembly (code) wherever we wished.

The version of the law that was passed does not mandate that computer coding courses be given foreign-language credits, but it allows schools on an individual basis to choose to do so. Under this law if the student and the student's school choose to consider a programming course as a foreign language course then Florida Colleges will be required to accept up to two credits in place of the regular foreign language requirement.

While some of the concerns are whether coding should be considered the equivalent of a real foreign-language, other groups are concerned that because of teaching resources (instructors, computers, etc.) there will be areas of Florida where children will not be able to use this option.

I have mixed emotions about considering programming languages equivalent to foreign languages. Yes, programming languages have their own syntax and semantics. And even within one language programs can be written in many different styles (I mostly write in C++ and I vacillate between styles that are something like free-verse and haiku-rap.) But the word language when used in the context of human/foreign language has its origins in the word for tongue. The implication is that a language can be spoken. Clearly programming languages are not spoken. Also, programming languages are heavily dependent on punctuation. Can you imagine speaking all of the closing parentheses while speaking LISP?

I think most of us would agree that programming languages are much more like mathematics. They have a precise syntax that is absolute and they are both algorithmic in nature. And while we might read an equation (or a line of code) we don't really speak it. So, if we follow Sen. King's logic then all of us geeks (you know if you're reading this article you are a geek) should get foreign-language credit for: algebra, calculus, differential equations, etc. Am I right? And some day we might vacation in Calculandia!

academia, education & classes, programming languages

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