"Yes we code," but we can't communicate

"Yes, we code", but we can't communicate! Don't accept programming as a substitute for required foreign language training. It cheats students, and it will hurt our potential for international skills. It is also founded on a very false notion about our rapidly evolving digital culture. Look for the high-tech corporate funding, and an ardent desire on the part of legislators not to create an unfunded mandate. There are many objections to this:

Coding Can’t and Shouldn’t Replace Foreign Language Requirements    


Legislators in Oklahoma Florida, Kentucky, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington are eager to make this substitution. To begin with, coding does not represent a large portion of society's needs in information technology, and will not necessarily lead students to enter the disciplines which fill those needs. So, where are we going to find the teachers?

"There's an app for that."   In case you are wondering about staffing to teach this skill where there is sure to be a shortfall of qualified teachers. You should not be surprised that information technology has already solved that problem with apps:

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/7-apps-teaching-children-coding-anna-adam

http://www.graphite.org/blog/12-best-apps-and-websites-for-learning-programming-and-coding


This brings up another challenge. It is well known that programmers frequently demonstrate poor social skills and have communication problems. An ed-tech CIO once bragged to me about a new hire: "He dreams in code". When I asked him. "Can he interpret his own dreams", the CIO answered quietly "Oh... I see what you mean." Take away the class and teacher in the initial training, and you are also removing the necessity for social skills and communication. What do you think the result will be?  One more thing: are you ready to stretch your school budget for all the computers needed in this endeavor?

Oddly enough, much of the toughest criticism for this misguided educational initiative seems to come from information technology people and recruiters, who have complained about the shortage of computer programmers.

Computer Science is Not a Foreign Language (code.org, Amy Hirotaka, 1/30/14)

Computer Science Is Not a Foreign Language (Stacie N. Berdan, 02/20/201, HuffPost)

Why Counting CS as a Foreign Language Credit is a Bad Idea (Computer Science Teachers Association)

Don't Swap Coding Classes for Foreign Language (Igor Persic, VP Engineering at Linkedin)

Learn to code? No: Learn a real language (GeekWire, Frank Catalano, 2/8/14)

Coding is not a foreign language (Intrinsic Strategy (Feb. 2014)

Language of computing, language of cultures not comparable (2015)

Please don't code, Tech Crunch 5/10/16 (Basel Farag)

According to the following:

"Should schools teach computer code as a foreign language?"   

James Previti, a programmer and father of three from Medford, N.J., says that learning code and a foreign language achieve different results. "Computer 'languages' are for creating instructions for the actions of computers. Spoken languages are for the communication of ideas ... a realm not likely to be occupied by computers anytime soon. The clear communication of ideas is much more important for our race than computer instructions."

Is it possible that the armies of law-degree holders we call legislators are missing something?  Since they are substituting programming for foreign languages, there will be legal pressure to limit learning to an actual programming language. Could it be that programming languages taught after the inevitable war fought over choosing those languages will not solve the recruiting problems in information technology? Which language should they tag? Will they choose an educational programming language (designed primarily as a learning instrument)? Many languages have a limited shelf life,  and it is uncertain that the choice will be in use when students finally exit into the work world. A few decades ago some schools decided that it was time for students become familiar computer languages, and they chose one called "Logo".  Some people will remember moving a turtle around on a screen. Though "Logo" is related to some modern programming languages, it will not fetch jobs.  See

All students should learn to code. Right? Not so fast. (Washington Post 5/29/14)

US Legislators Got It All Wrong: Computer Science ≠ Foreign Languages

Yes, we know that the Bureau of Labor statistics predicts a 8% decline in computer programming jobs between 2014 and 2024, but it also predicts a 29% increase in translation and interprater jobs for the same period. Even with a current programming language, knowing how to code is no guarantee of a job. I wonder how many of the projected Intel, IBM, and Microsoft layoffs just didn't speak the right programming language:

Why Microsoft's Layoff Is Much More Sweeping Than The 18,000 Cuts

Add to Microsoft, the thousands of layoffs Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems, Intel, Sony. These were not people who learned assembly language, Fortran, Basic, Pascal, COBOL, ALGOL, TELCOMP, LOGO, and SNOBOL in school. Their knowledge of computer languages was much more modern, but still not fully relevant to the market.

As we contemplate what is happening at Microsoft, we might also ask what will the public advent of quantum computing bring. Right now, D-Wave, Google, NASA, and the Universities Space Research Association have joined forces for a special artificial intelligence project. Will learning a current language be the best way to prepare us for the quantum age?

Of course, learning a programing language omits cultural study, and is not going to do what foreign language study does for general cognition and the human brain:

Foreign Languages - An Essential Core Experience

and we have some very pressing shortages of workers proficient in foreign languages:

$$World Languages = Career Opportunities$$

There are some who are highly suspicious of our push to teach as many kids as possible to code:

Jason Bradbury: Coding Lessons In Schools Are a Waste of Time (2016) 

John C. Dvorak, "Teaching Coding to Kids Is a Scam" (NYTimes, 5/12/14)  

Tara Tiger Brown, "Learning How to Code" (Forbes 1/10/12)  

Zamilur Rashid, CSM, "Why coding is a waste of time for you!" (Linkedin  7/26/14)  


I almost forgot to tell you, believe it or not, there are non-English coding experiences:

Non-English-based programming languages

Digital culture does link the sciences together, and is a communication bridge, the understanding of which is necessary to humanities, but the route to this understanding is in no way attainable through the substitution of coding for foreign language study. Tll your state legislators to back off.


TennesseeBob Peckham, PhD
Director, Globe-Gate Research
Made in Tennessee to bring you the world
bobp@utm.edu

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