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A Hefty Debate

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-met-body-mass-20110118,0,7965554.story As I found myself cruising the internet today, I came upon this story and I thought I’d weigh in (Big day for puns). A school in Chicago is taking heat from parents for linking students BMI scores to their Physical Education grade. Now, there’s a TON of stuff to debate here, so I’ll start with the obvious. The BMI sucks. It’s a terrible test. Actually it’s not even a test. On a personal note I had to fudge a health insurance application at one point because at 6 feet and 210 pounds my BMI put me in a “high-risk” category, despite being able to take my shirt off at the beach and reveal a “situation,” albeit a slightly more pale version. Trying to apply the BMI to growing children is even more useless because of the rapid height and weight fluctuations that occur through adolescence. But now that we’ve established that, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I applaud the school for trying to do SOMETHING to combat childhood obesity and disease. Most schools are eliminating physical activity altogether, so we NEED to push back the other way. I am sensitive to kids getting picked on for being fat, I owned a couple pairs of Husky size jeans way back in the day myself. But I’m tired of the attitude that it shouldn’t be addressed or should be celebrated. Yes, we are all different and not everyone was born to be a Size 0. But the OVERWHELMING majority of childhood obesity cases aren’t being caused by genetics alone. The parent’s attitude in this debate was that the school shouldn’t have any say in kid’s health. Then who does???? Kelloggs??? McDonald’s??? Justin Bieber??? We have an enormous healthcare problem in this country. How much of that is preventable? How many productive work hours are we losing due to disease and medical problems? What is it costing us? Freedom is our fundamental principle in America. With freedom comes responsibility. If these parents don’t want someone else trying to help their kids, will they? Can they toss aside the prevailing indignant “everyone is ok” attitude and admit that they are failing their children if they don’t guide them down a healthy path? We live in polarizing times. Our opinions, beliefs, and actions are driven 3 standard deviations from the mean. But the answer is always near the middle. We don’t need to be Sparta and expose our weak on sides of cliffs, but we have to do something. There seems to be an implication that “I do what I want” is part of the Declaration of Independence. The right to determine your own path comes with the responsibility of contributing to the greater good. We’ve tried letting parents keep their children healthy and it’s not working. Blame it on corporate greed, a bad education system, one-parent households, TV, the Hamburgler, it doesn’t matter. America is losing, one bag of Dorito’s and Xbox Live deathmatch at a time. I saw a scary statistic from the military. Fewer than 3 out of 10 American Males between the age of 17 and 24 would meet the minimum qualifications for military service (Army Times, 2006). Granted, we aren’t going to have to turn back the Red Coats anytime soon, but it shows how far we’ve come in just a couple of generations from our finest hour in World War II. Well, this got a little long and ranty, I apologize. As for an answer to the problem? We need to find a way to get kids to love being active from a young age, and turn the tide against the lack of anything slightly nutritious in the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet). If it takes a school coming up with a productive way to do that, so be it. I’m ready for someone to own the issue before it’s too late.