Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

CBS Tackles US Schools' Problems Network's Week-Long `Project Education,' Capped by Prime-Time Special,marks New Approach. TELEVISION

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

CBS Tackles US Schools' Problems Network's Week-Long `Project Education,' Capped by Prime-Time Special,marks New Approach. TELEVISION

Article excerpt

`SOME experts believe we have only about 10 years to improve publiceducation in this country. After that it may be too late to do anything aboutit," says Charles Kuralt, anchor of "America's Toughest Assignment: Solvingthe Education Crisis" (CBS, Thursday, Sept. 6, 9-11 p.m., check locallistings).

This two-hour prime-time special is the centerpiece of a unique week innetwork television, which includes not only many hours devoted to a majorAmerican problem but no-nonsense advocacy for specific solutions to theproblem.

The week-long CBS News "Project Education" also includes educationsegments Sept. 2-7 on the "CBS Evening News," "Sunday Morning," and "60Minutes"; coverage Sept. 5 of a national education conference at GeorgetownUniversity in Washington, D.C.; and a nationwide forum Sept. 6, following theKuralt special, at 11:30 p.m.

According to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, onlyabout 20 percent of the nation's 21,000 high schools rate as excellent; 40 to 50percent are good to mediocre; one-third are shockingly deficient.

Ernest Boyer, president of that foundation, served as consultant on and offcamera for this project, and it is clear that his ideas dominate theproceedings. In fact, one weakness of the program is that no dissenting opinionsare recorded.

"America's Toughest Assignment" utilizes some of the best news talent atCBS: Besides Kuralt, there are segments from Mike Wallace, Ed Bradley, LesleyStahl, Steve Kroft, Harry Smith, Paula Zahn, and Ellen Moriarty. They search forclear advances in educating America's children in day care, nursery schools,elementary schools, and junior and senior high schools.

Some of the facts uncovered:

- The average college student planning to teach today is white, female,and middle-class. She comes from the bottom half of her high school class andscores below the college-bound average on the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

- The United States has one of the world's highest rates oflow-birth-weight infants, a condition considered a great risk for learningdisabilities.

- Chrysler Corporation spends 12 percent of its total budget teachingremedial math, reading, and writing to potential employees.

- In a CBS poll, 71 percent of those queried said they would be willing tohave their taxes raised $100 per year to help pay for better schools in theircommunity. But the number dropped to 49 percent when asked if they'd be willingif the money went to some other community.

- In math, America's 13-year-old students rank last among allindustrialized nations. …

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