By Aseem Mehta, a Yale University graduate interested in public health and economics.
Over the past eight years, public schools across the country have been subject to new rules and standards of proficiency and progress for their students. The regulations were a key component of former-President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). The success of the policy opens up the possibility of passing similar legislation promoting other advances in education – specifically those related to health – based on the NCLB as a model. As a high school student and someone who’s interested in public health issues, here’s what I think.
The objective of the NCLB was the development of standards for education in each state, in conjunction with increased accountability for schools. The law called for every state to set “Adequate Yearly Progress” standards in reading, math, and science, and for every student to be proficient at those subjects by 2014. Like many of President Bush’s policies during his two terms in office, NCLB was subject to much scrutiny – but unlike some of his more unpopular decisions, it seemed to actually work.
Such success brings up the possibility of adding new elements to our educational system and implementing them in a similar manner. Just as math and reading are fundamental skills for students, I believe that understanding health issues is essential for the success and future of students. Research has shown that learning healthy nutrition, exercise and behavioral habits at a younger age increases the healthfulness of an individual for the future. The source of our well-being can be attributed to our knowledge and awareness of health issues and lifestyle choices.
I’ve seen so often, however, that students do not have teachers qualified to teach about complex health issues, or qualified teachers do not have the tools to effectively engage their students in the health curriculum. Applying the same principles that allowed NCLB to improve test scores and teacher quality for core subjects like math and reading, Congress should consider a similar project for instituting more effective and better health education programs in public schools as well. Just as Congress made sure not to leave any children behind, they should take special care to make all children healthy. Then No Child will really be left behind – physically as well as mentally. That’s what I think – what do you believe?
Last reviewed Nov 24., 2014.