Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Math Class vs. Sex Class

March 08, 2004

President Bush proposes some important new expenditures for education -- $100 million for reading programs to help middle and high schoolers who still struggle to sound out Seuss-simple words; $40 million to help professionals in math and science make the transition to teaching; $52 million to bring Advanced Placement classes to more high schools.

Yet all these added together would be eclipsed by the $270 million the president would devote to a school program promoting sexual abstinence -- despite there being little evidence that such programs reduce teen sex or pregnancies.

Credit the president's budget for putting new money toward older students. Most educational reforms have focused on primary grades while slighting a generation of high school kids. The worst-off, many in impoverished schools, must learn basic literacy before heading to the work world; the most promising deserve the same chance at college admissions that Advanced Placement classes provide to students at more affluent schools. They all deserve qualified math and science teachers.

Bush's proposal to create a corps of adjunct teachers in math and science shows real innovation. These are the two subjects in which teachers are least likely to have expertise. The money would be used to set up school and business partnerships that would bring professionals in math and science to the schools, teaching part time while working at their regular jobs, or full time during work leaves. Their knowledge and fresh perspective could invigorate teaching in these fields.

In fact, the idea deserves more funding if it's to have any real effect. Instead, Bush wants to double the amount of money for sex education programs that promote only abstinence; the $270-million figure is more than six times what he would spend on the math and science initiative.

This administration has vocally advocated spending money only where research shows it to be effective. Studies show that students learn math and science better when their teachers have expertise in the subjects. Numerous studies also show that arts education -- a target for cuts under Bush's budget -- help children achieve academically in a whole range of ways.

An independent evaluation commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services two years ago found no reliable evidence that abstinence-only education reduced teen sex or pregnancies. Congress will have to help the president get his educational priorities in order: The schools need math teachers a lot more than abstinence teachers.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|