The two chambers of the Florida Legislature are taking fundamentally different directions on computer programming education in the state’s public K-12 schools. The Senate bill (SB 468) famously proposes to deemphasize foreign language education to make room for computer programming education.
However, the House bill (HB 887), which is now heading for the House Appropriations Committee, instead calls for a study by the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Council, which deals with issues like articulation (applying AP credits to colleges and universities, among other issues) and admission. It’s the charge that the House bill proposes for this study that should worry Florida’s math and science education communities:
The council’s recommendations must identify: High school courses in computer science, including computer coding and computer programming, of sufficient rigor that may be used to satisfy specified State University System admissions requirements, including requirements for foreign languages, mathematics, and science.
That would set up a competition between foreign language, math and science to keep from being nudged to the side by computer programming. Subjects like psychology and art would be protected.
Of course, the right thing to do is to make sure that computer programming instruction is available to every student, and then to sell it to students and parents. That’s slow and exhausting work. How do I know? I’m doing it for physics. However, computer programming education advocates have one big advantage over me: Resources. I basically have my own hands and feet. I don’t even have charm going for me, because I’m quite short of that. But the computer programming education advocates have money and organization (see code.org). And national code.org leader Hadi Partovi seems to have a helluva lot more charm and charisma than I do.
So here’s my message to the computer programming education advocacy community: Don’t be so damn lazy. Sell your subject to individual districts, schools and teachers. Reach the students and parents. Explain why this is so important. Don’t try to promote your own subject at the expense of the fields your progress depends on – physics, math, engineering and (because production is international) foreign language. Help us make a school system that is finally ready for the 21st century.