Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Author's Response to Elise Cohen

As an author, I'm flattered when someone not only reads my book but takes the time to write a review of it. As a professor, I receive student evaluations every semester and I've learned to especially appreciate thoughtful constructive criticism because it has greatly improved my teaching over the years. I'm not so naive as to think that every student will like my teaching style, nor do I think every reader will like The Barefoot Book or find it useful to them. However, when a review of my book contains factual errors I feel I must respond.

Amazon reviewer Elise Cohen accuses me of taking citations out of context, but she begins her review by taking my words out of context by quoting the sentence: "Asking someone to wear a sensible shoe is like asking a person to smoke a sensible cigarette." (page 5) and presenting this as a genuine argument on my part rather than the attention-grabber it is clearly meant to be. She fails to mention the follow-up sentence, “Okay, shoes are not as devasting as cigarettes, but for most of us daily shoe wearing will cause chronic foot problems.”

Cohen then asks, Did I mention the scientific backing? Oh, I didn't; that would be because there isn't any, except a few citations taken out of context (related to historic foot-binding or extreme high heel damage, for the most part). In chapter 4 alone, I cite

Prosthetics & Orthotics International
Journal of Biomechanics
Journal of Sports Science
Clinical Biomechanics
Journal of Anatomy
Boston Medical and Surgical Journal
British Medical Journal
The Lancet
Arthritis & Rheumatism
Journal of the American Medical Association
and more.

Throughout the book there are roughly 100 references to primary and secondary sources. Ironically, not one of them refers to “historic foot-binding” which is discussed briefly in chapter 1 without a citation.

Cohen goes on to criticize the chart on page 127 which graphically compares the number of shoe-related lawsuits to barefoot-related lawsuits. She complains that “there are no numbers anywhere on the graph at all.” This is true, but as Cohen concedes all of the lawsuits depicted in the graph are listed in the Appendix; one therefore only needs to count them to obtain numbers. Cohen asserts that the Appendix fails to “acknowledge the fact that the shoe-related injury lawsuits related to suing the shoe manufacturers for the most part” but again her assertion is not true; the first five shoe-related lawsuits, for example, are against Cigna Corporation, Home Depot, Grand Wailea Company, Wal-Mart Stores, and Winn-Dixie. Indeed, there’s not a single lawsuit in the list against a shoe manufacturer.

Finally, I have to wonder if Elise Cohen’s review is not biased by negative sentiments for my employer, Liberty University. She opens her review with “When I saw that the author is a professor at Liberty University, my eyebrows raised.” She said that, despite my affiliations, she would give the book a fair shot. Did she?


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Welcome to The Barefoot Professor blog, intelligent talk about running, walking and living barefoot. I encourage your comments, even if you disagree with me. In this spirit I don't even moderate the comments. However, PLEASE use critical thinking skills when leaving comments, and avoid inflammatory words. Please keep your comments short and to-the-point. THANKS.