Courses in Python, HTML, and SQL soon could replace Spanish, French, and German on Michigan high school students’ schedules.
Students who study computer programming languages or take other coding courses would get credit toward their world-language graduation requirement under a bill working its way through the state Legislature.
Separate legislation also could chip away at the state’s language requirement. It would require high school students to take a half-credit financial literacy course. Credit for that course could be used toward fulfilling world language, math, or art requirements.
Both bills have support from business groups that say they’re interested in a better skilled workforce. But in an example of the ongoing STEM-versus-humanities debate in education, they’re running into resistance from critics who worry that the bills will reduce local flexibility over curriculum and further crowd out cultural understanding in favor of more technical education.
“Personal finance has nothing to do with world language,” said Julie Foss, public liaison for the Michigan World Language Association, which opposes the bills on coding and personal finance. “It’s not that we think that either of those things isn’t valuable, but they have no place replacing world languages.”
She said if Michigan determines that students need to learn computer coding, it makes more sense for the course to fulfill a math or science requirement.
Michigan students already can opt out of one of their two required foreign language credits if they take a career and technical education class or if they earn more than two visual and performing arts credits. It’s unclear how many students use CTE or arts classes to fulfill the world language requirement, but 103,000 students were enrolled in career and technical education programs last school year.
Students also can fulfill world language requirements before high school. For example, a district could offer a K-8 language program for all children that results in proficiency equivalent to two years of high school course work.
The Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals supports financial literacy but opposes the bill because it doesn’t give districts enough flexibility to decide how to deliver instruction. For example, districts should have the option to embed financial literacy content into existing courses, MASSP lobbyist Bob Kefgen said.
The Michigan Department of Education opposes both bills. Legislative liaison Sheryl Kennedy said the department supports the teaching of coding and financial literacy but opposes any bill that substitutes credit from one area of the Michigan Merit Curriculum for another.
“Foreign language isn’t just about learning to speak the language,” she said. “It is learning about a culture different from ours. Coding does not do that.”
Foss, who also is …….