With dozens of studies proving its benefits for young minds and the grim reality that we are far behind other nations in a key competitive skill, you would think that politicians would be falling all over themselves to support language education in our schools. However, increasingly more policies are popping up at the state and federal levels that would put language education further out of reach for more students.
While teachers are the most important factor in students' success, policy matters in public education. Two recent developments in education policy are troubling and contrast what students need and parents want with how many elected leaders undervalue language learning.
A movement in some states that is gaining traction nationally would allow for students to meet world language course requirements by taking computer programming courses. Advocates for this policy change say they want to boost the number of students interested in computer science careers. As the leader of an education technology company focused on language learning, I have a vested interest in the development of a more technically competent and globally aware cohort of graduates. Both are important skills for today's global marketplace.
But I fear that this policy would not only further erode language education in our schools, while having a scant effect on the future high-tech workforce. By forcing students to select either language courses or programming creates a Hobson's choice that will limit their futures. In a global economy, learning a foreign language is more critical than ever -- and right now we don't have enough bilingual speakers to keep up with other nations.