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Educators: Computer Programming Shouldn't Count as a Foreign Language

Educators spoke out against a bill Wednesday that would allow computer programming to count as a foreign language under the state’s education laws.

Language teachers from across Maine packed the Legislature to oppose the bill. Charles Hicks, a French teacher at SAD 49 in Fairfield, says that computer coding can’t teach students about human interaction and culture.

“Let me ask you this,” he says. “Can a student go to a coding country and spend a week or two eating coding food and listening to coding music? No.”

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. James Dill of Old Town, told the state’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee that his bill was written in response to the state’s shortage of foreign language teachers. He says that by widening the definition of a foreign language to include computer coding, rural districts could better handle the shortage and offer more choice to students.

“This is not intended in any way to diminish the worth of foreign languages, world language,” he says, “but just as another way to help out the school systems.”

Similar legislation has been proposed in legislatures across the country, with Texas passing a version of the bill in 2013.