I never liked math. My brain just doesn’t think mathematically. I used to sit in geometry class, making the triangles and hexagons in my notebook into geometric creatures in various orders of disarray.
The rectangle was impaled on the pike at the top of a number four. A family of circles danced merrily around a recently deceased proof, holding hands and singing a happy song.
This happened mostly on the days when I actually paid attention. On the days I didn’t, I was lucky if even a shape was drawn on the page. I would usually just stare at the teacher and hope my facial hair didn’t look as atrocious as his, when I eventually got
Despite my obvious failure to understand math beyond the level of first-year algebra, I think I turned out OK. I was able to concentrate on my other strengths — reading, writing, philosophy — and let them maturate and flourish in classes that appealed to me, math be damned.
As long as you can balance your checkbook and keep track of your finances, math is something most people only need a basic understanding of.
That’s why I’m pretty sympathetic to the plight of Paris Smith, an eighth-grader at King Junior High School in Sacramento, Calif.
In the New York Times on Sunday, Smith told a reporter that she “hates having two math classes in a row. Two hours of math is too much. I can’t concentrate that long.”
Along with thousands of other schools across the country, KJHS is increasing the amount of time spent on math and reading in the classroom and reducing, and in some cases eliminating, other subjects from student’s schedules.
And it’s all because of President Bush’s ridiculously by-the-book-with-no-thought-as-to-the-importance-of-things-other-than-the-basics-No-Child-Left-Behind Act.
No more band. No more art. No more cooking. No more history. No more languages. Not until you can read Chaucer or figure out what time Gary is going to arrive at Train Station C if he leaves Albuquerque at 3:00 p.m. going 70 mph in paralyzing hail.
No one is going to argue that reading is essential to any education and getting through the day without being able to read is near impossible.
However, schools shouldn’t be punished or rewarded solely on a standardized test based only on reading and math. And according to the Times, a study being released on March 28 shows this “narrowing of the curriculum” is quickly becoming standard practice in schools across the country, including Vermont.
Classes like art and music are already being cut to put more money into school’s sports programs and this is a step in the same direction.
Reading and math are important, but they’re not the only subjects a child should be learning. A well-rounded education is just as important as math and reading and not every child is going to grow up to be a mathematician.
When we teach children only math and reading, not only do we run the risk of pushing people away from the arts and sciences but we risk boring students who are already uninterested in their studies out of our schools altogether.
Maybe that’s been the plan all along.
What Bush is trying to do with No Child Left Behind is admirable, but when it’s all said and done, I just can’t see how it’ll add up. You might want to double-check my math, though.