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Coding could count for foreign language credit under bill

LANSING, MI (AP) — Instead of learning a foreign language, Michigan students could take computer coding classes to replace the high school graduation requirement, under a bill that passed the state House Tuesday.

Currently, the Michigan Merit Curriculum, which dictates the state’s academic standards for graduation, requires students to take two world language credits to receive a high school diploma.

Before the bill passed a vote, bill sponsor Rep. Greg VanWoerkom spoke about the value of coding in Michigan’s prominent auto and tech industries, as well as it being a good alternative for those kids who struggle with traditional language classes.

“Besides being a hard skill, that employers actually want, coding. helps build soft skills. Coding promotes the use of logic, reasoning, problem solving and creativity,” the Norton Shores Republican said. “Any professional coder will tell you that to be fluent in coding takes years of practice and a deep understanding of the language.”

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In opposition to the bill, Rep Padma Kuppa said though she understands the importance of adding more technology education to curriculums, having had a career as a mechanical engineer, coding is not a foreign language. Students need both computer and tech skills and foreign language skills.

“As technology helps the world become more interconnected, our ability to understand and work with others on technical projects around the globe is not only related to the ability to code, but to understand one another,” the Troy Democrat said.

With state House passage, the bill will now have to clear a vote in the Senate and then gain the governor’s approval.

VanWoerkom sponsored legislation to allow coding classes to act as a substitute for the world language requirements in 2019, but it didn’t make it to the House floor for a vote.

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Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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