Sunday, March 19, 2006

New “Subject” In School?

We’ve all seen them—obese young children and teenagers without any muscular tone. The Maryland State Senate has under consideration legislative measures which would bring the schools into the battle against child and teen obesity. From a March 19, 2006 article in the Washington Post:
“Two bills being studied in the state Senate would require public schools to evaluate students using the body mass index, a formula that estimates body fat based on height and weight. One of the proposals even calls for sending home the results with report cards -- essentially, a fat grade.”
The opposing factions to these new proposals have lined up—eating-disorder specialists and snack-food marketers against doctors and school board members. One of the legislative bills introduced would add both body-mass measurements and diabetes testing during the usual scoliosis screenings already in place for middle schoolers. The other bill proposes a “health report card” for first, third, fifth, and eighth graders.

The bills are unlikely to pass the Maryland state legislature. This year, similar measures in the Virginia legislature died in committee when the state board of education objected on the basis of cost. Pennsylvania and Arkansas, however, do have height-weight screenings in place; the initial objections have tapered off.

How do so many children get so fat? There are lots of reasons, but here’s another clue from the above-cited article:
“[A]nother bill…would gradually increase the time devoted to physical education in elementary schools to 150 minutes a week, or 30 minutes a day.

“Squeezed by increasing academic demands and reluctant to lengthen the instructional day, Maryland schools have compressed gym instruction to as little as 20 minutes a week…”
A mere twenty minutes a week for physical education? And to make matters worse, Maryland schools often perform dismally on standardized testing, so the extra instructional time must not be working very well.

Back when I was in school, the overweight students were mostly those who spent lots of time studying. As an overachiever, I was one of them. Even so, I was not obese. In addition, I had plenty of muscle tone in spite of my school’s not having a P.E. department. We had recess, however, and at home I did muscle-building work: housework, yard work, gardening, and plenty of bike-riding and tree-climbing. But today—at least, in my neighborhood—one rarely sees children playing outside and certainly not doing chores.

As long-term readers here know, I work with groups of homeschoolers. None of them have a weight problem. Hmmm….

Is it the schools’ responsibility to be the fat police? Most schools today are having a difficult enough time accomplishing the academic instruction.


At 3/19/2006 10:15 AM, Blogger Lone Pony said...

Let's look to the parents. Schools shouldn't have to take over the job of the parents, but in so many instances, we are!

I do think school lunches need to be changed though. I can't eat them. They're all carbohydrates. (They're easy to prepare.) Potatoes, bread, breaded meats, etc. We need to get fresh fruits and veggies into our kids and get the pop machines out of the picture.

At 3/19/2006 12:57 PM, Blogger Cubed © said...


I have a few buttons, and you've definitely pushed on of them with this subject.

Sorry, but here I go again:

"No" to the "fat police," and that is despite the fact that my pediatrician collegues are seeing evidence of cardiovascular disease in children as young as three these days, and a massive increase in obesity-related disorders such as Type II diabetes. About 80% of cancers are also life-style related, although I probably won't live long enough to see the increase in breast cancer incidence, among several other kinds of cancer.

Fat not only stores estrogen, it manufactures it, and between increasing fat and the estrogenic effects of the antibiotics given to livestock at slaughterhouses (to fatten them up, not to fight infection), our little girls are having the onset of menstruation at ever earlier ages (around 10-11 now, when it used to be 14-15).

This gives them years more exposure to estrogen, even without the common use of HRT at the other end of reproductive life, so the oncologists are girding themselves for an increase in patient load.

We have to take back control of our kids from the postmodernists who are kidnapping them. We have to learn that maintaining normal weight ("average" is sometimes misinterpreted as "normal") is not only important for physical health, but for intellectual health as well.

About six years ago, it was found that a good exercise program stimulated an increase in the numbers of brain cells, literally increasing learning ability. Up to then, that was thought to be impossible, and only intellectual stimulation was thought to help.

I think many of us realize that there is no "exercise clause" in the Constitution, and that every time the government takes over responsibility for a function NOT consitutionally mandated (police, courts, armed forces and that sort of thing) that it does a TERRIBLE job and totally messes up. The most famous recent example is New Orleans - it was a governmental mess to begin with, and the government "cure" after Katrina has been a mess too.

The health of our kids must be left to the people who care and love them the most - the parents. They are NOT incompetent when it comes to learning about healthful diets, the need for exercise, etc., but you sure wouldn't know that to listen to the Platonic Power Lusters in government. We are just the "little people" who can't muddle through without their "help."

Lone Pony,

Absolutely, schools SHOULDN'T "have to" take over the job of the parents - and they don't "have to." Unfortunately, that's actually one of the goals of many of the senior educational policy makers (as contrasted with the classroom teachers, who are still under the illusion that they are there to [gasp!] TEACH!).

Way back when Horace Mann founded what was quickly to become today's tax-supported, government-run, compulsory-attendance, compelled-curriculum school system in the mid-1800s, there were a couple of utopian socialists, Roberts and Owen, who were verrrry interested indeed in education. Their interest lay in the conviction that with proper training, future generations would implement their (Roberts' and Owen's) own major goals of equal income and property distribution - you know, communism.

Their plan was this: You take the kids at age two, put them in boarding schools 24/7 until they are sixteen, and by that time, with "proper" training, they'll all be good little communists (they didn't call them that, but that's what they were).

These ideas were considered too extreme to be implemented at the time, but with the help of people like John Dewey and all their socialist buddies, the schools have been inching towards that goal ever since, and today, they have come alarmingly close to achieving it.

Today, as you know, the Left - liberals - socialists - postmodernists etc. have gained control over the behemoth that's supposed to be our school system, along with the colleges that train our teachers in both the public and private sectors.

Every time you see a presumably "benign" program in the ever-expanding sphere of influence of the school system - they always hide behind something that sounds as if it's for the child's or parents' benefit - it is one more step towards achieving the Roberts and Owen ideal of removing the kids from the influence of the parents and replacing it with that of their own minions.

The "school lunch/breakfast programs," all those medically-related "screening tests" and "after-school programs" really sound nice, and many parents are grateful for them. Many kids go home to sleep, and not a whole lot more. The problem is, the "apparent need" was also a product of socialist - Leftist - Liberal - Postmodernists like Roberts and Owen. They have "created a need," and then rushed in to fill it.

One of the ideals is, of course, a global one - the "New World Order" or "One World" concept that is growing so fast, and which has opened the door (via PC) to the huge whitewash job that Islam is getting in the classroom right now. To the Man in the Street, the "New World Order" or the "One World" idea borders on the ludicrous, but our unprotected borders, the sellout of our strategic infrastructure, and the attempted sellout of our ports to DPW are just a small part of the kind of thinking that is pushing us down that path to hell, and that path is NOT paved with "good intentions." There's a lot more to it than just buying the Hispanic vote and providing cheap labor.

For an expanded treatment of this subject as it is being implemented in our schools, along with some very interesting documentation, you might want to go to my article at

At 3/19/2006 1:30 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Lone Pony,
school lunches need to be changed though

No doubt! Many years ago, my two aunts used to work in the school cafeteria. More than that. She was a master chef and prepared the meals, balanced ones. Teachers and students loved the meals.

Now, as you pointed out, a lot of the cafeteria fare is pre-packaged. Most of it is loaded with sodium as well.

Nutritionally speaking, bad lunches can be bad, too. And often students who bring their own nutritious lunches will mooch off others. In the private school where I worked, most parents provided good lunches. And the students were easier to teach too! Admittedly, this private school had a lunch policy.

When I taught in the public system, I stayed out of the school cafeteria. The students didn't, however. And when I first started working in the public system, the cafeteria didn't have vending machines. By the time I left, however, the push was on for the machines.

At 3/19/2006 1:34 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Thank you for such a well explicated comment! And thank you for pointed out those important medical aspects, which many do not consider or even know about.

We are already enmeshed in "from cradle to grave," IMO.

At 3/19/2006 2:42 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

"Back when I was in school, the overweight students were mostly those who spent lots of time studying."
I'm not saying this is untrue for your case but in general I'm not buying it. Most overweight students in my school experience were not high academic performers.

Also, using body height and other body measurements to determine the percentage of body fat is unreliable. When I was in the Coast Guard, my max weight for my size was 185 lbs. but I weighed closer to 220 lbs. I ended up needing to get an exemption so I wasn't placed on the "fat boy" program.

Lastly, when I was in school PE was 50 minutes every day. Of course it's been awhile.

At 3/19/2006 3:52 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Not very many students were overweight when I was in school. And I wasn't grossly so by any means. But I'm sure that I would've been slimmer had I not been studying 3-4 hours a night, not counting piano and voice practice. Certainly I didn't sit in front of the TV!

Also, I've never been a sports person. I swam long-distance laps, however.

BMI wasn't in use when I was in school. But I suspect that my BMI back then would've been pretty good. Lots of muscle for a female! I also have higher-than-average bone density.

Enough about me.

when I was in school PE was 50 minutes every day

True for most just a few years ago. I'm not sure as to why the policy has changed in Maryland.

One of my best friends used to be a P.E. teacher, 1987-1999. She complained, "Kids just don't get out and move their bodies--except in P.E. class."

At 3/19/2006 8:20 PM, Blogger MissingLink said...

In my opinion there is also too much emphasis on food alone.
I know people who live on fruit and vegetables and are obese.
They eat so called "healthy" food in such quantities that they look like hippos.
An they despair: -"I eat only "healthy" food and I am so fat".
Additionally sporting activities as I remeber would always turn into competitive activities.
Naturally kids, who were fat were ridiculed as they had to compete against slim & fit ones.
And so the poor fatsos tried to keep as far away from all sport as possible.

Definetely school as a fat-police will only make things worse.

At 3/19/2006 11:52 PM, Blogger MonicaR said...

I have three words to say:

The Food Pyramid.

Okay - I have some more words to say. I am appalled that the education system is attempting a takeover on THIS now. Oh no - God I pray that my kids will never have to be put into public school. Just let me live long enough to get them edumucated. Amen.

At 3/20/2006 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect the reason why the schools have de-emphasized physical education is that it increases their "legal liability" exposure. Keep the kids sitting at their desks, and they can't fall down a scrape their knees.

And of course, this is all just part of the "femininization" and "equalization" of the curriculum.... can't have any "blatant" inequalities turn into "stereotypes".


At 3/20/2006 11:09 AM, Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

One of the reasons your home schooled pupils have their weight under control may be that they aren't as heavily exposed to the crap thats passing for food in the culture.

They aren't snarfing down pizza and tacos at lunch with a quart of soda.

At 3/20/2006 12:56 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Missing Link,
In my opinion there is also too much emphasis on food alone.

Food for every event and for all kinds of reasons. This cultural aspects affect adults as well. I also think that taste buds can be "corrupted"; the effect is a geometric progression.

Naturally kids, who were fat were ridiculed as they had to compete against slim & fit ones.
And so the poor fatsos tried to keep as far away from all sport as possible.

Definetely school as a fat-police will only make things worse.

From what I've observed, the ridicule factor does nothing to motivate a change in eating habits.

Peer pressure can, but sometimes the result moves toward anorexia. I've seen a few anorexic students in my 30+ years of teaching. Anorexia is a vicious cycle.

The Food Pyramid

I know some parents who "enforce" that pyramid at home, only to have their children "lapse" at school, particularly in the cafeteria.

Schools should stick to teaching and not turn the teachers into the fat police.

P.E. teachers sometimes carry extra insurance. And, yes, the liability factor plays in as well.

They aren't snarfing down pizza and tacos at lunch with a quart of soda.

True! And we rarely have parties as well.

the crap thats passing for food in the culture

Agreed. Also, it's often easier and more convenient to grab the junk food. I know that I myself have been guilty of that one.

At 3/20/2006 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three words:




That's the primary cause of fat kids. America needs to dump the enriched "everything" idea because it is KILLING ALL OF US!!!!!!!!!!!

At 3/20/2006 2:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Platonic Power Lusters???

Just who do you think invented the doctrine of "separation of powers" anyway, Aristotle????

Read Plato's, "Statesman" for the REAL scoop.


At 3/20/2006 2:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have several friends in public school who go out and eat junk food after school. The ones who aren't fat are those who dance every day after school for six hours. But then again, their grades are atrocious. I overheard one girl boasting to her friends about how she (as she proudly stated) received a D in a subject! Her excuse was that the teacher was so "hard." (Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule.)

I do well in school and yet do not have a wieght problem. I must admit that the only reason I don't have a weight problem is becuase a very wise person in my life has limited my junk food intake ever since I was born. No matter how much I groan and my sweet tooth suffers, I am NOT struggling with a weight problem.

The real problem here is the junk food. I am allowed a moderate intake of junk food but also am allowed to eat any healthy food I want. Whoever invented processed food should be shot!


At 3/20/2006 5:59 PM, Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

Not to mention no parents home anymore b/c mothers and fathers are are rarely eating home cooking...mostly scarfing down garbage that passes for edible food at fast "food" drive ins....gosh lets turn back the hands of time!

At 3/20/2006 11:06 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...


I've been all-consumed with work and computer issues. Tonight was devoted to getting a broadband connection up and running on the laptop computer I'm using at the moment. I finally succumbed and called for techie help. I seem to be up and running now.

It's getting late, and I'm burned out.


At 3/22/2006 12:05 AM, Blogger MonicaR said...

The Food Pyramid is a horrible way to eat. Since the government decided to endorse it obesity, diabetes and heart disease has soared. They are scratching their heads.

Too much carbo and YES white bread. Not enough protein. IMHO of course. Keep in mind that I quickly discarded the thought of following the food pyramid after I first laid eyes on it. My children are lean and healthy. They are also very physically active.

At 3/22/2006 1:32 AM, Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Are you old enough to buy that candy bar?

At 3/22/2006 5:38 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Maybe one should have to weigh in before buying a candy bar. Just kidding--I hope.

At 3/22/2006 5:42 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

When I dropped some 35 pounds (1985), I followed an eating plan very like the Food Pyramid. However, Diet Center stressed that the eating plan alone wasn't going to do the trick. Daily exercise, I believe, is the key to maintaining a good BMI.

No white bread on the plan I followed. When I hit a plateau, I had a protein day to rev up my metabolism.

The school-cafeteria food follows no pyramid that I can understand.

At 3/22/2006 12:09 PM, Blogger MonicaR said...

I have no idea what they're serving up at school these days. When I was in school I rode my bike home every day for lunch. It was a long time ago but even back then I thought the food at the cafeteria was nasty.

At 3/23/2006 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not simply what the kids consume as much as the lack of physical activity.

Many school budget cuts cull sports, PE, intramural and after school activities.

The combination of this and the pressure on parents who have little energy or time to taxi kids to extracurricular events and then rely on quick solutions for meals is the real problem.

Most folks I know simply will not allow their kids to enjoy the woe-be-gone days of unsupervised neighborhood stick ball or tag, bike rides or b-ball. Rather, working parents go online to check the web for registered sexual offenders in their region and warn their latchkey kids to lock the doors behind them when they get home.

I had two of four children in a private school that addressed these problems by offering supervised sports, intramurals, religious classes (CCD or Hebrew lessons), dance . . .the list is long . . . as well as homework help and scouting on the school premises till 6:30 pm.
Parents were relieved because these activities took place directly after school giving them time to enjoy real family time once at home.

Without comprehensive programs like this we cannot expect kids to be physically fit . . .and safe.


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