November 17, 2015

Bipartisan Legislation Would Make Programming Qualify As “Foreign Language” In U.S. Schools

Bipartisan Legislation Would Make Programming Qualify As “Foreign Language” In U.S. Schools

(Washington, DC) – To allow tech-inspired students to create paths to follow their passion, U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley, Calif.) joined U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) in introducing H.R. 4041, the 416d65726963612043616e20436f6465 Act of 2015, also known as the America Can Code Act.

This legislation designates computer programming languages as “critical foreign languages” and provide incentives for state and local schools to teach more computer science, beginning as early as kindergarten.

The official short title of the bill is believed to be unique among Congressional legislation. “416d65726963612043616e20436f6465” is the hexadecimal code translation of “America Can Code.”

“Programming mimics spoken and written human language in the way it is taught and the skills it develops,” said Cárdenas, a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. “Learning programming early will allow students to create proficiency in a skill that can provide a lifetime of opportunity. Learning and communicating in a foreign language can have a tremendous impact on a student, both culturally and educationally. Programming can offer many of those same benefits.”

Computer programming jobs are growing at nearly twice the national average rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage in 2010 for computer programmers was $71,380, while the median annual wage for all workers was $33,840.

 “STEAM is an excellent opportunity for today’s students to learn a skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives,” Farenthold said. “We know that these technology positions will always have supply and demand and that will continue to be the case in the future as new technology grows and enriches our lives.”

Cárdenas was also joined by Farenthold at a recent “Coding Jam Session” at the United States Capitol where both members and their colleagues from all over the country had the opportunity to learn coding from young Latino programmers, helping Representatives better understand not only what “coding” is, but how critical it is in preparing our kids for the next generation of American jobs.

By 2020, there will be an estimated 1.4 million computer programming jobs, with only 400,000 American computer science students to fill those jobs. Nine out of 10 schools in the United States do not even offer computer programming classes and in 36 states, computer coding classes do not count towards high school STEM graduation requirements.

Along with redefining computer programming as a critical foreign language, the 416d65726963612043616e20436f6465 Act would create a competitive matching grant program for schools, particularly those in low-income areas, to create new ways to teach computer science and engineering, in tandem with universities and non-profits.