Public Schools want kids to be healthy? This is an outrage!

I’ve noticed that some people don’t like the idea of schools tracking students’ BMI. It’s intrusive. It’s a nanny state. It’s communist.

I disagree. I think it’s a necessary, beneficial decision that is only seeing resistance because a large portion of white lazy Americans value convenience and lethargy over well-being.

The major question to ask first is “What is the purpose of public education.” People will debate about the answer to this riddle for at least as long as we have public education. Potential responses include but are not limited to:

-Prepare children for citizenship

-cultivate a skilled workforce

-teach cultural literacy
-prepare students for college

-help students become critical thinkers

-help students compete in a global marketplace                                                          (pbs.org)

As far as I can see, in order to fully achieve any of these goals, health is directly impacted and influenced by the purpose of public education. How?

1) One cannot be a citizen, let alone a contributing citizen, if one has died from a heart disease at age 30.

2) There are many jobs in this world that require one to be capable of considerable physical strain. I, for one, would not be a very good fire fighter, soldier, lifeguard, or builder because I am weak and out of shape.

3) Anybody who cares about cultural literacy is most likely already concerned with health, or at least aware of its dangers. If we’re too lazy to go anywhere that doesn’t have a parking sport within 50 feet, I’m not sure how we’re going to explore the world and other cultures.

4) The freshmen fifteen have been around for a long time. That is the first time most kids are fending for themselves. Pizza, Ramen, cookies, and beer are everywhere. If we haven’t educated them about the importance of health before they get to college, how are they going to stay healthy during one of the most stressful life transitions thus far?

5) I know I’m not thinking critically when I eat half of an Oreo pie. People who are capable of thinking critically about their decisions and the consequences of their decisions are going to be more critical about their lifestyles decisions. Sure they might eat half a pie on occasion, but they also know about protein and b-vitamins and the importance of green veggies. (Shakotko, et. al. 1980)

6) Again, you can’t compete in a global market if you’re dead at 30, or if you have to take off work once a week for a doctor’s visit, or if you have to sit down every fifteen minutes.

So those are my half-assed reasons.

Logically: I am against saying “I know for certain that…” but I will say this: there is significantly more research suggesting that being obese is unhealthy than there is research suggesting that being obese is not unhealthy (Hannon, Et. al., 2005; Young, 2000). If we allow our kids to continue on this upward spiral toward obesity, our kids will continue to be unhealthy. Then those unhealthy kids grow up. If they do survive long enough to reproduce, they are now more likely to have unhealthy kids (Fogelholm, Et. al 1999). The cycle just goes on and on until Disney’s Robots is an accurate portrayal of America (which isn’t that far away, unfortunately).

As for those who are upset because this is the government taking over our lives: please think for one second. The government already tells me how fast I can drive, how old I have to be to drink or smoke cigarettes, what kinds of plants I’m not allowed to grow, what my kids have to learn, and that I’m not allowed to drive a vehicle while under the influence of any drug (excluding caffeine or nicotine). Are you going to throw a little whiny hissy fit over those? Why do you think we have to follow a speed limit? For the safety of ourselves and others. Why do your kids have to go to school? For the well-being of society. Why do schools measure student’s health? For the well-being of students and society. This country wasn’t founded on “do whatever the hell you want regardless of what the consequences are to your children’s lives.” If that’s what you think America is, then go to Mexico. It seems like they can do pretty much whatever they want. Love it or leave it, boys.

If your only argument is “the government can’t tell me how to raise my kids,” well that is simply not true.  They can tell us what to do. They do tell you how to raise your kids. “Child endangerment” is an actual thing, and if you are responsible for the morbidly obese kid, welp that just might be child endangerment. The word “morbidly” is right there, plain as day. The government says you’re not allowed to put your kid in a running clothes dryer as a punishment (true story, some dude just got arrested for that). The government says they can’t smoke cigarettes. Because those things are bad for your kids. So is being obese. In other instances  of parents neglecting to meet the health and safety needs of their children, aren’t those kids taken away? So are we just supposed to ignore the dangers of obesity because it’s rude? Because, since a lot of Americans are obese, it’s okay to be obese?

Alls I’m saying is, being healthy is important. Just because a lot of people value television more than they value their health does not mean that it is alright or good. Being obese is dangerous to an individual’s health. When more and more of our citizens are unhealthy, our society suffers. Tracking BMI in school is no more communist than measuring students’ knowledge. Opposers are just upset because the government is telling them the truth: your lifestyle is unhealthy and you’re doing a disservice to your children by allowing them to be unhealthy just like you.

 

 

Fogelhol, M., Nuutinen, O., Pasanen, M., Myöhänen, E., Säätelä, T.  (1999). Parent–child relationship of physical activity patterns and obesity. International Journal of Obesity, v. 23 issue 12, 1999, p. 1262. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v23/n12/pdf/0801061a.pdf

Hannon, T., Goutham, R., and Arslanian, S. (2005). Childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Pediatrics. Vol. 116 No. 2 August 2005. pp. 473-80. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/2/473.short

Public Broadcasting Service(2001) What is the purpose of public education? If there is more than one purpose, are they sometimes in conflict with each other? Roundtable, Inc  http://www.pbs.org/kcet/publicschool/get_involved/guide_p2.html

Shakotko, R, Edwards, L., Grossman, M. (1980). An exploration of the dynamic relationship between health and cognitive development in adolescenceNBER Working Paper Series. National Bureau of Economic Research. Cambridge, MA . Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w0454.pdf?new_window=1

Young, TK. Childhood obesity in a population at high risk for type 2 diabetes. The Journal of Pediatrics, v. 136 issue 3, 2000, p.365.    http://journals.ohiolink.edu/ejc/pdf.cgi/Young_T.Kue.pdf?issn=00223476&issue=v136i0003&article=365_coiapahrft2d

 

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Rusty Southwick
    Feb 16, 2012 @ 06:48:54

    I agree in principle, and you frame the argument rather well, showing relevant corollaries. Obesity is a major problem, as are poor eating habits in general, even for those who don’t overeat a great deal.

    As for the government’s place in the process, I agree that they should do more to promote healthy lifestyles. I think they should promote the production of healthier foods, and I think cigarettes and other tobacco products should be banned as well as most alcoholic beverages. Kids living in smoke-filled homes are having their health compromised that way, but even if second-hand smoke weren’t harmful, a society should not be engaged in the production of lethal substances for consumption. It’s backwards to our primary health goals. We as a society bring much lung cancer and emphysema upon ourselves. Smoking also causes higher rates of cancer of the bladder, esophagus, larynx, lips, tongue, mouth and pancreas. Half of all house fires are caused by cigarettes. This raises home insurance rates by a substantial margin.

    About half of all fatal traffic accidents are alcohol-related. A third of all suicides involve alcohol abusers. 40% of male admissions to state mental hospitals are alcohol abusers. “You are more likely to be killed by the drink in your hand than by a mugger on the street.” (McGervey, Probabilities in Everyday Life)

    Reply

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