Reading, Writing, Arithmetic

Is The 'No Child Left Behind' Law Leaving Kids Dumber?

The following is a weekly 60 Minutes commentary by CBS News correspondent Andy Rooney.

If you don't have children in school, you may not have heard that there's a revolution going on in our classrooms.

The children going to school these days may look the same, but the subjects they're taking are not. The new, federal "No Child Left Behind" law, has changed a lot of things in school.

Reading and math are the only subjects tested by national exams, so schools are desperate to have their students do well in those subjects. That's why they're spending more time on math and reading and less time teaching everything else.

Something's wrong here. Any time teaching is done just to help kids pass an exam, it's wrong. The purpose of teaching is to provide an education, not to help kids pass a test.

Subjects like science, art, history and music are being taught very little in a lot of schools. We're going to raise a generation of cultural idiots - people who don't know Beethoven from Mozart, Cezanne from Van Gogh, or Albert Einstein from Charles Darwin.

I don't know what you do about dumb kids, or kids who didn't get any help from dumb parents. It seems to me, though, that kids who did get that shouldn't be held back with those who did not.

Everyone in a class shouldn't be brought down to the lowest level.

I've been looking through some Scholastic Aptitude Test books. They have hundreds of model exams in them. Some of the questions are familiar to me.

Here's one: "Out of a total of 154 games played, a baseball team won 54 more games than it lost. If there were no ties, how many games did the team win?"

They have a section on essays. They give students 25 minutes to write a two-page essay. You're reading my two-page essay.

The problem here is - who marks the essay? A teacher can't mark it right or wrong like a math test. Who decides whether an essay is good, bad or fair?

Another trouble with too much emphasis on reading and math is that it assumes that all education should have some practical application to life and that's not true. Knowing something about science, art, geography, music and history may not help you make a living but it's the kind of information we share.

It's this common knowledge that keeps our civilization together. Mathematics is just for counting the money.
By Andy Rooney