A few nights ago I saw a blurb involving high school students complaining about their "new and improved" school lunches. When Congress added caloric limits to the stew, apparently the dish became a bit too bland and watery to their tastes and for their needs.
I think cutting down on childhood obesity is a noble cause, but it seems to me government is attacking the wrong end of the varmint. From my life’s lessons, it seems to me modern kids’ weight problem isn’t intake but rather out-go.
By today’s standards, my teenage dietary habits fell just short of suicidal. Counterintuitively, I and virtually all of my friends and fellow students were skinny.
The few overweight kids mostly battled genetics rather than sedentary behaviors. For a decade after I got out of high school, I even took supplements to gain weight!
The product was appropriately called "Weight-On" and didn’t work all that well on me until 20 years after I quit taking them. The label didn’t mention "time release" but apparently they popped open when I hit my 40s.
The reason my world didn’t bulk up wasn’t because of what we ate but rather what we did. I think that’s the basis for Michelle Obama’s "Let’s Move" initiative.
However, for all the good intentions, it seems the system is working at cross purposes. Physical activity in schools today is often sacrificed upon the altar of self-esteem. Schools are reluctant to offer activities where there are "winners" because that means there are "losers."
Such "Yin-Yang" requirement of the universe is unavoidable but is sidestepped with the addition of touchy-feely dust. The logic is: Don’t keep score and give everybody a trophy. Nonsense.
Let’s face it. Kids today would rather play games on the couch than outside. Kids prefer texting over running down the street to talk to a friend.
I don’t condemn them. If these gadgets and games had existed when I grew up, I would’ve fluffed up pillows and sat right with them in front of glowing screens.
If the problem lives within technology, perhaps so does one of the solutions. Tom Hanks’ character in the movie "Big" played piano by jumping from note to note on a huge keyboard.
Why can’t Apple build similar big computer keyboards to lie on the floor? If kids had to jump from letter to letter instead of moving two thumbs, there’s no telling how many stripes would fall off their pajamas.
However, the most insidious threat to kids isn’t peanut butter and jelly. Waistlines are important but brains are much more so.
I watched Chicago teachers ranting in front of cameras about how much they’re needed in classrooms and how important students are to them. With all that caring I wonder why their system fails to educate them to grade level by the fourth year or graduate half of them.
Fat makes kids unhealthy and dumb makes our country unhealthy. Solutions may be identical. Get the junk out of cafeterias and the junk out of school systems.
Otis Gardner’s column appears here weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.