Pete Springer/OPB

A bill in the Oregon Legislature would allow computer coding classes to be counted toward foreign language requirements for public school students. 

Bobbie Jager is the executive director and president of Building Excellent Schools Together (BEST), which requested that the legislation be introduced.

“I think it’s important for our kids to have opportunities and I think that some of our kids struggle with foreign languages,” she says.

For those kids, taking a computer language class would offer an alternative that could help their career opportunities. “This is a skill that they can take out of high school and walk into a family-wage job.”

Sebastian Heiduschke is an associate professor of Oregon State University’s world languages and culture program, and he’s testified against the bill. Foreign languages, he says, are “more than just speaking, reading, listening and writing.” By taking foreign language classes, “we learn about the history of other cultures, and about other people … In computer coding we don’t do that. We learn how to program a machine.”

Heiduschke adds however, that he has nothing against computer coding. “It is an essential skill. We’re in 2015.”

Oregon is not alone in this debate; Texas passed similar legislation last year. The bill was introduced in the Oregon Legislature by Rep. Julie Parish, R-West Linn.