Public health officials, it seems, are increasingly worried about children getting fat. So they're turning to the one place where the government controls a portion of the lives, activities and diets of those kids: Public schools.
It's the wrong solution. Here's why.
By necessity, public school systems are little microcosms of the communities they serve. Bad kids, good kids, skinny kids, fat kids -- all of them come through the doors of our public schools.
Even before the county's public school system moved away from one-room schoolhouses and into larger modern complexes that serve larger geographic areas, a movement began to provide transportation to school. Next, in the 1930s in Columbia County, as in most of the country, a Depression-era program began to feed those children.
From those modest beginnings the schools have increasingly been leaned on to provide breakfast, day care, nursing care and counseling to pupils. Anti-drug programs take up part of the day in some schools, and a move to add driver's education occasionally comes up.
Now, health officials want more of the school day spent on physical education to help curb childhood obesity. Some lawmakers even think it's a good idea to mandate a specific amount of time each child spends every day on the playground.
The problem is that a student's day is only so long, and every minute spent in PE or anti-drug programs is time that isn't spent in the classroom. Yet state and national pressure for performance on standardized tests has gotten stronger, making it tougher to spare any part of the academic day for non-academic pursuits.
So, if schools aren't the answer, what is?
Unfortunately for government bureaucrats, who are always looking to extend their reach, it's in a place beyond their grasp: The homes of all those fat kids.
The parents of portly pupils need to be encouraged to take away the snack foods and Nintendo controllers. Let the parents raise the kids, and let the schools try to educate them.
With good PE programs already in place, plenty of opportunities for extracurricular physical activity and ongoing efforts to improve school lunches, it's not the schools' fault that children are getting fatter. Nor is it their responsibility to slim them down.
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