Healthy, happy and ready to teach, or why kids can’t learn from fat teachers: the discursive politics of school reform and teacher health

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Critical Public Health, ISSN: 0958-1596, Vol: 24, Issue: 2, Page: 210-225

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Vander Shee, Carolyn; Gard, Michael
Informa UK Limited; Routledge
Medicine; Teachers; school; public policy; 130299, 130209; Education
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The idea of using schools for public health ends has a long and complex history. If anything, interest in the public health role of schools may actually be intensifying, perhaps driven by the attention given to a range of health matters affecting young people, notably mental illness, drugs and alcohol, and obesity. This paper deals predominantly with obesity but emerges out of our ongoing research into both the nature and consequences of policies and interventions that seek to use American public schools to prosecute public health goals. In particular, our focus is on the kinds of school-based interventions that widespread panic about childhood obesity has generated and their consequences for teachers. We take up this matter by examining how American teachers' health - and the associated responsibilities and obligations to inspire health among young people - are discursively constructed in legislation, policy documents, and academic articles. Our review and analysis of these texts reveal the presence of three distinct discursive formations: teachers as health role models, teachers as fiscal liabilities, and teachers as instruments of policy compliance. These formations, we argue, suggest a novel and, in some cases, alarming trajectory in school-based obesity policies and interventions. © 2013 Taylor & Francis.