Education Letter to the Editor

Commentary Unpersuasive on Lack of Health-School Link

October 01, 2013 1 min read

To the Editor:

In his Commentary “Think Education Is Like Medicine? Think Again” (Aug. 28, 2013), James H. Nehring misinterprets some very complex issues in his analysis of “bad ideas” in education. For example, in his comparison of the medical profession and education, he argues that medicine is far more individualistic than education, where teachers allegedly work in a more collective, holistic environment. Yet the heart of effective teaching is examining students’ profiles, academic backgrounds, and interests in determining the best ways to provide instruction in a more differentiated, individualistic fashion.

Mr. Nehring’s contextual approach to this issue also advocates for the most part the neglect of research findings in favor of personal judgments in the classroom. Teaching does involve to some degree addressing “attitudes and behaviors,” but so does medicine in promoting healthy lifestyles and habits.

His recommendation that it is better to compare education to the public-health field also invites more invalid conclusions. Unfavorable international comparisons regarding student performance were an impetus for the U.S. Department of Education, governors, and state education officials to advance the Common Core State Standards movement and a more challenging and demanding curriculum. This standards-based movement is now being implemented. Contrary to Mr. Nehring’s assertions, public rhetoric was translated into substantive action for educators and students in classrooms throughout the United States.

Lastly, when Mr. Nehring states that effective instruction is far more complex than just the interaction of student, content, and teacher, he seems to contradict himself when he subsequently asserts that effective teachers do take outside factors into consideration in their planning and instruction. Thus, the issues he raises are important ones to consider, but in a different context than he presents them.

Allen Smith

Associate Professor

Touro College Graduate School of Education

New York, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the October 02, 2013 edition of Education Week as Commentary Unpersuasive on Lack of Health-School Link