It's all Greek to me. That might be someone's reaction to trying to understand computer programming language such as JavaScript or Python. So why shouldn't it be considered a foreign language? That's what a proposal being put forward by Carroll legislators in the House and Senate seeks to do.

The legislation would let high school students in the state fulfill graduation requirements by allowing them to take a computer programming language course in place of a more traditional foreign language class such as Spanish or French. Honestly, it's an idea that makes a lot of sense for a certain segment of students.


You likely don't have to look far to find someone who graduated high school in Maryland and took the required two credits in foreign language, yet has never used those skills. Granted, a number of professions might not exactly call for using computer programming skills either, but in our ever-evolving technology-driven world, it certainly seems more practical for a number of students.

Maryland isn't the first state to look at such a shift. Florida adopted the idea last year, according to USA Today. Officials in Georgia, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington have also considered it, according to a Reuters article from February 2016, but thus far, none have adopted a switch.

Del. April Rose, who proposed House Bill 1351, told us the idea came to her during discussions at the Combined Education Committee meetings over the summer and again in the context of some students being unable to take classes at the Career and Technology Center. She believes the bill would provide more opportunities for students to be successful, and we agree.

The bill is written so that, if passed, it wouldn't be a mandate from the state. Rather, local school boards would have the option to allow students to choose between computer programming or foreign language to fulfill graduation requirements. The bill's fiscal note states that the Maryland State Department of Education can identify and evaluate the courses and develop required regulations using existing resources, meaning there is little financial impact.

One drawback, however, which is outlined in the Department of Legislative Services' fiscal note, is that a student who opts to take computer programming over a foreign language course might run into trouble when applying for college. The state's graduation requirements are set up with students who are continuing their education after high school in mind. And schools such as the University of Maryland, College Park, and others across the University System of Maryland, generally require a student earn a grade of C or better in a language other than English.

While not every student who would choose computer programming over Spanish class may be seeking to attend college, we'd hate to see someone rejected by colleges for not meeting basic requirements. That's something that will likely need to be reconciled before the bill can move forward, and may even cause it to stall this year.

Still, we think the idea is promising. Certainly, we aren't advocating eliminating teaching foreign language, rather just recognizing that it's not as valuable to some students as a computer coding course might be. Giving students options to be successful should be our top priority.