Our Children Can’t Wait: HSC’s Chapter on Health & Learning

April 12, 2023 | Written By:

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

I am very excited about the opportunity Alex Mays, HSC’s former senior national program director, and I had to contribute a chapter on the connections between health and learning to the new book “Our Children Can’t Wait: The Urgency of Reinventing Education Policy In America” (Teachers College Press).

Spearheaded by UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools, the book and companion podcast address often-ignored conditions and policies that affect a student’s ability to learn within the context of institutionalized racism.

All chapters share a common thread: In addition to identifying a problem, the authors offer concrete solutions to creating a healthier and more equitable learning environment for all students. Combined, the book bridges scholarship and policy recommendations to present a new equity roadmap. 

If one is judged by the company one keeps, then HSC is in great company. Chapter authors include leading education advocates, such as Linda Darling-Hammond, Arnold Fege and John H. Jackson, whose work I’ve followed for years. 

Working on the book also gave us an opportunity to connect with passionate leaders like Tyrone C. Howard, professor of education in the School of Education & Information Studies at UCLA, and a host of new and established researchers and advocates.

At HSC, we know from our own experience, and the experience of parents, teachers, principals and school leaders, that school environments often do not provide conditions that support student health — meaning students don’t have access to healthy food, physical activity, safe drinking water and clean air, and comprehensive school health services, including mental healthcare. 

Writing the chapter “Youths’ Health and Learning” allowed us to reflect on what HSC has learned over the past 20 years and to present key policy and practice approaches we consider essential to creating healthy school environments. 

I hope you’ll read my remarks from the inaugural “Our Children Can’t Wait” webinar and listen to a conversation Alex and I had with the book’s editor, Joseph Bishop, about HSC’s history and current work, including helping states and school districts expand access to school-based health services (“Making Schools Healthier Places for Learning” on Apple Podcasts and Spotify).  

While momentum is growing for a more inclusive and supportive vision for education, the current efforts to ban books, restrict teaching about race and limit student expression pose a grave danger to public education. “Our Children Can’t Wait” offers an equity roadmap for moving forward. I am very proud that HSC is part of this effort. 

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