Every parent wants the best for their children, and in today’s world – where innovation is part of everything we do – providing students with a better understanding of technology is becoming essential to prepare them for the worldwide marketplace. Every time we get in the car, use a smart phone, go online or to the doctor, we are exposed to high-tech tools that we couldn’t have envisioned at the beginning of the decade, let alone the century.
These technological advancements are becoming game changers in both classrooms and boardrooms nationwide. So why are we living in a disruptive new world and sticking to an outdated paradigm when it comes to educating tomorrow’s business leaders?
At the local level down here in Florida, I have introduced legislation to provide 9th through 12th graders a more market-friendly alternative when it comes to foreign language requirements. It’s an inspirational and transformative approach to education that I believe will take computer literacy to new heights in Florida and nationally, in states like Kentucky and New Mexico that are also considering the change. In fact, Texas has already implemented this change.
As in many states, Florida’s high school students are required to take two years of a foreign language to graduate. If approved, my bill will add computer coding as an option to language options like French, Latin, Spanish, and Mandarin – for students who aspire to gain a better understanding of the language of innovation that is taking place in today’s global economy.
Some have been asking, “why must computer coding be an option in the foreign languages?” The answer is because computer coding is a foreign language among a community of the world that is being valued ever higher in the global economy. It is used by our counterparts in places like China, India and throughout Europe. It’s a language that binds cultures – regardless of their geographic location – behind a common computer framework that is used to power all of the technology we use in our daily lives. And like Latin and Sign Language, which are other languages offered in Florida, computer coding isn’t spoken.
An important reason to include computer coding under foreign languages is because it has a two-year requirement compared to the four years required under math and science. If lawmakers were to place computer coding under math or science, it truly would be a replacement and not a choice. As a foreign language, students can take two years of a traditional language and also two years of computer coding – a common sense compromise that still exposes students to the traditional cultural components of spoken world languages. If they want a working knowledge of Spanish or Italian for a college summer spent backpacking through Europe, the computer coding legislation won’t take that off the table.
Equally as important, this legislation has applications for students who may never actually pursue a career in the technology field. Technology is the foundation for anything anyone will do in their careers, whether its journalism, public relations, construction, law, medicine, and education – therefore it really is more of a humanities or liberal arts. It will allow aspiring professionals to understand the way computer technology is developed since computer coding is the fabric of everything in today’s workplaces.
When considering how to better prepare for the technological breakthroughs that will occur in their lifetimes, I’d like to ask Congressional lawmakers to give this concept some thought. We can either open our eyes to the new world reality that places a priority on coding, or continue seeing our tech prospects slide. As someone that worked closely in the tech industry and has seen firsthand of what we are up against internationally, I choose a future that can be transformational for America’s future professionals. When given the choice to learn a language in high school, computer coding can be the great educational equalizer.
Ring is a Democratic member of the Florida Senate and a former executive at Yahoo! He resides in Parkland.