Science

Did McDonald’s-Eating Teacher’s Class Project Go Too Far?

By Anthony Rebora — January 07, 2014 1 min read

You may have heard about John Cisna, the high school science teacher in Iowa who lost nearly 40 pounds in part by partaking of a calorie-limited McDonalds-only diet that he used as a class project on nutrition. Slate‘s food and wine editor L.V. Anderson says that’s all well and good for him (maybe), but she argues that the educator crossed a line by involving his students in his weight-loss adventures:

If John Cisna wants to try to lose weight by eating at McDonald's every day, fine—but it's his responsibility to monitor his diet, not his students'. And teachers should be particularly careful about talking about dieting in the classroom given teens' susceptibility to eating disorders and negative body image. Add in the pro-business political implications of Cisna's project—"Hey, it's choice. We all have choices; it's our choices that make us fat, not McDonald's," he told a local news station—and you have what looks like the dissolution of appropriate student-teacher boundaries.

In interviews, Cisna has argued that, by monitoring his menu selections, his students learned the importance of making careful decisions about what they eat (and perhaps something about going beyond face-value judgements). The Today Show‘s Matt Lauer, for one, was impressed by Cisna’s method: “First of all, I wish I had a teacher like you,” he told him. “You make it interesting.”

Your thoughts on Cisna’s fast-food lesson?

Photo: The McDonald’s logo and a Happy Meal box with french fries and a drink at a McDonald’s restaurant in Springfield, Ill.—Seth Perlman/AP-File

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.