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.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.
“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…”
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.