LET'S GET THE HEALTH OUT OF SCIENCE

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  • THE JOURNAL OF SCHOOL HEALTH Devoted to the interests and udvuncement of school health service and instriiction.

    VOl. XXXIV APRIL, 1964 No. 4 Your participation by membership is solicited.

    LETS GET THE HEALTH OUT OF SCIENCE LAWRENCE B. OREILLY, M.A.

    Assistant Professor, Health Education, State University College, Cortland, N e w York

    Editors Note The following article by Professor OReilly states very well a point of view

    recommending the severance of the relationship between health education and science courses in the curriculum. The Editor would welcome supporting 07 ditfering articles on this controversial subject.

    In June of 1962 a study was begun in New York State to determine the extent to which health instruction was being included in the junior high school science curriculum. All public junior and senior high schools in a fourteen county area in or near the geographical center of New York State were chosen for study. Although this region is primarily rural, cities in excess of 100,000 population are included in the sample. Spe- cifically, the counties included in this research a r e Broome Chenango Oneida Seneca Tompkins Cayuga Cortland Onondaga Steuben Yates Chemung Madison Schuyler Tioga

    Mechanics of the Investigation Questionnaires were sent to one hundred eighty-seven secondary

    schools, and even though postage was not provided for return of the inquiries, seventy-one percent of the schools responded. Many of the returns were from senior high schools which do not include grades 7, 8, and 9. Data from these schools obviously could not be used for the purposes of this study. Sixty-nine responses were received from schools which include the junior high school grades, and i t is with these schools that this research is concerned.

    Ten general subject-matter areas were arbitrarily selected for study and each of these was divided into several subtopics which are represen- tative of those commonly included in health courses. The major areas of study are as follows: 1. The Human Body 6. Personal Health 2. Disease and fmmunity 7. Public Health 3. Foods and Nutrition 8. Nuclear Energy 4. Mental Hygiene 9. First Aid 5. Human Growth and Development 10. Consumer Health The participating schools were asked to indicate those topics which were regularly taught as part of the junior high school science program, and in which grade or grades each was included. No effort was made to de-

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    termine the degree of emphasis on each of the topics, but future research will hopefully provide data on this aspect of the junior high program. Admittedly, neither the ten major areas nor their respective subdivisions represent all that should be taught, but it was felt that responses to these items would provide valuable insight into the current role of health edu- cation in the science curriculum.

    The data clearly suggest several relationships between junior high school health and science and lead to the formulation of several basic assumptions and conclusions, and ultimately to general recommendations for strengthening health instruction in grades 7, S, and 9. In order for the reader to appreciate the basic purpose of this study it is useful to recall certain events of recent historic interest.

    Background Information This investigation was indirectly stimulated by the unprecedented con-

    cern shown our public school science courses in the period amusingly referred to as the Era of Post-Sputnik Panic. Perhaps the reader recalls the historic newspaper headlines of October 4, 1957, when the announcement of the Soviet launching of the first artificial earth satellite (Sputnik I), heralded the Space Age. Three months following this dramatic event, the orbit of this man-made moon was entirely within the thin, upper limits of our atmosphere, at which point it slowed rapidly, plunged closer to Earth, and burned into physical oblivion. The term physical oblivion has been chosen for, in spite of the predicted fate of Sputnik I, its influence on science education is as profound today as in 1957 when the United States was jolted into the realization that we were second to the Soviets in the scramble for space supremacy.

    During the early years of increased concern for all aspects of American education, but especially science education, this author and countless other science teachers were engaged in a critical evaluation of course content and teaching procedures. But in our haste, we too often submitted to administrative pressures and recommendations of community groups to alter the science courses in our schools. The outcome of this irrational concern appears to be the inclusion of more subject matter of a more sophisticated nature on every grade level. If one were to identify the prevailing philosophy of those advocating radical change in our science curricula, it could be stated quite simply--As one increases the volume of content in a particular course, and similarly increases the degree of difficulty of this information, the intellectual growth of students cor- respondingly increases. The efficacy of this approach has been con- sidered by many and it is not the purpose of this paper to pursue this point further.

    Prior to the actual beginnings of this research it was presumed by many science educators that the efforts and recommendations of several organized groups (e.g., Physical Science Study Commit,tee, American Institute of Biological Sciences, Chemistry Study Group) and active individuals, who were instrumental in revamping and, to some extent, revitalizing upper secondary school science teaching, had indirectly in- fluenced the junior high school. It appeared obvious that much of the material formerly taught in pre-Sputnik biology, chemistry, and physics

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    had been discarded in favor of newer concepts and approaches. It was felt that some of the older subject-matter had filtered through the grades with much of it becoming enmeshed in the curricula of the junior high school. There was little doubt that junior high science had become more intensified as the hand-me-down concepts and understandings of the high school sciences had been incorporated in an already ambitious general science program. If this situation currently exists, is it not reasonable to assume that general science must, of necessity, modify itself by de-emphasizing or even eliminating areas of the curriculum for which it had previously been responsible? An attempt is made in this investiga- tion to discover whether or not health instruction continues to be included in the general sciences.

    At this point it is appropriate to examine the New York States policies regarding health teaching in junior high schools. The following selection is from a regulation of the New York State Commissioner of Education:

    In addition to continued health guidance in the junior high school grades, provision shall also be made for approved health and safety teaching either as part of a broad science program or as a separate course.

    Health and safety education shall be required for all pupils in the junior and senior high school grades and shall be taught by teachers with approved preparation.

    It is apparent that this regulation may be interpreted in at least two dif- ferent ways. That is, schools may either offer a specijic health course taught by qualified health educators or others with limited background in health, or schools may incorporate health and safety instruction in other science-oriented subject areas such as home economics (food science) or, more commonly, general science. The question of paramount im- portance to those interested in health education is-Are those schools which integrate health and safety teaching in general science doing an adequate job, especially in view of the recent changes in the content and emphasis in science education?

    Preliminary Data Responses from the sixty-nine qualifying schools (those including

    grades 7, 8, and 9) clearly indicated that 5.5% (4 schools) required a health course for all junior high school students. One may generalize, at least from these data, that health courses are virtually nonexistent in the junior high schools of New York State. If this is, in fact, the present situation, what percentage of the schools allow students to continue through grades 10, 11, and 12, without ever having studied a health course?

    Approximately 60% of the schools stated that all of their students must study (as a high school graduation requirement) either a health course or another course (biology, homemaking, etc.) which, in their judgment., included sufficient health instruction to satisfy the somewhat ambiguous state health teaching regulations. The remaining 40% of the sixty-nine schools reported that providing their students continued in the same school system, they would not study a high school health course, as such courses were not offered in their school programs.

    The regulation continues-

  • - _-. THE JOURNAL OF SCHOOL HEALTH

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    To facilitate the tabulation and presentation oi data, eacsl-i whool has

    1. Eq (equivalent Schools: Those schools or school systems which require for high school graduation (42 total) either a separate health course or another course which is considered (by that particular school or system) to be the legal equivalent of a health course. The designation Eq has been selected because the majority of schools in this category offered the legal equivalent and not a separate health course.

    Those schools or school systems (27 total) which do not require (for high school graduation) a health course or any other course which is specifically struc- tured to meet state health teaching regu