Because kids spend so much time in the classroom, it is inevitable that our school systems will have to be involved in battling the childhood obesity epidemic. But just how far should that involvement go?
I think most would agree that schools have an obligation to educate students about healthy lifestyles and offer healthy foods to eat in the cafeteria. In addition, a little more recess and physical education couldn’t hurt.
But is that enough? Do schools have a responsibility to go further in the fight against childhood obesity? In Flagstaff, Arizona, they believe they do and are instituting a program to identify overweight elementary school students. The students will be measured and weighed and the parents of those that are deemed overweight (or heading that way) will be notified via letter.
The program does a little more than that, but not much. Parents of kids who get the letter will be given advice on exercise and nutrition and urged to take their child to see a physician.
So, that should work, right?
Wrong. While an editorial in the Arizona Daily Star sings the praises of this fat-checking program and suggests that it be expanded statewide, I think it stinks. Not only is it based on the false premise that parents don’t know when their child is overweight, it will no doubt embarrass and humiliate those kids who are singled out. Because no matter how discreet they are with that letter, they will know.
And in the end, what does it accomplish anyway? The article I read suggests that parents should be grateful that experts are so willing to step in and bring the problem to their attention. But reminding a parent that their kid is overweight solves nothing. If schools feel so compelled to join in the fight against obesity, I think they would better serve their students by doing what they are supposed to do: Set a good example and educate.
Make room in the curriculum for education about nutrition and exercise. Get rid of all the junk food at school that has contributed to the problem. And stop treating physical education and recess as unimportant time-wasters that do little more than distract from the important business of academic testing.
And one more thing: If overweight Arizona students are going to be singled out I think their overweight teachers should be, too. After all, kids learn by example and an overweight teacher is setting a bad one.
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