My wish for schools is that administrators and teachers focus on individual children's strengths and not their weakness. As an example, let's look at high school athletes. Say the Department of Education set a minimum requirement that to play any sport you must be able to swim a hundred yards. For one athlete who already knows how to swim, this is reasonable. For another, it simply takes a little practice. But for a third student, who may not know how to swim, it becomes an obstacle that discourages the athlete from pursing any sport. This is the case with our son. He has speech apraxia, a motor speech disorder which makes it difficult for him to speak. Despite this challenge, he is at the top of his science classes, top of his class in Computer Science and takes advanced algebra. Do we want to make it harder for kids to excel because of the challenges they face, or do we want to offer multiple paths so kids can be the best they can be? We immigrated to the United States to be in the land of opportunity, only to find out that for our son, it may be the land of obstacles. My son acknowledges that his career choices are limited because of his speech challenges. Even some menial jobs that don't require education would be a struggle. STEM is his strength. Our country claims there is a shortage of students pursuing Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) careers, in fields where my son's disability would have been non-existent. Florida State Senator Jeremy Ring is leading the charge and is offering students, like my son, a chance for success. He is sponsoring CS/SB 468, a bill that would provide Florida public high schoolers computer coding alongside foreign languages, such as French, Spanish and Mandarin. This innovative and transformative proposal is poised to offer Florida students an exciting gateway to future opportunities. His proposal would allow students to take computer coding to fulfill their foreign language requirement. High school students with learning disabilities and kids with different interests and strengths would have the opportunity to take computer coding instead of a foreign language, and in my opinion better preparing them for the workplace. Senator Ring's bill also allows Florida's state colleges and universities to recognize computer coding as a foreign language, and students who study computer language will still be eligible to receive Florida Bright Futures scholarships. Computer language opens up so many more opportunities for my son than a foreign language would. My son will most likely require the use of a text to speech device, which he has resisted using since kindergarten. But detractors or people happy with the status quo will discuss the long term benefits of a foreign language on cognitive skills. We don't dispute the long term benefits of any course currently offered in high school. Every single course a child takes is a building block. Students who think Spanish, French or other foreign language would be beneficial to their career should take it. For those students whose education and careers would benefit more from a computer coding course, that option should be available for them. Our current one size fits all approach to education doesn't really fit every student. By supporting CS/SB 468, we have the opportunity to make Florida a national leader in computer coding education. This is the proposal we need to embrace because it will provide more opportunities for kids who don't fit the traditional educational mold, like my son, and will allow them to shine.
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