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Scoring Big On the Report Card

March 2005
Scoring Big On the Report Card

The Lighter Side

Boy, times sure have changed. An elementary school teacher told a father that his 8-year-old son was having trouble "fitting in" and you know what the father did? He put the boy on a diet! It was a good thing, too, because the kid can now follow his classmates everywhere. He can even go down the slide chute, without using much Vaseline.

That reminds me of what a school superintendent said recently: "The good news is that our student population is growing steadily. The bad news is that they're growing in the wrong direction."

Horizontal growth is such a problem in America that legislators in several states are proposing laws that would require schools to not only weigh children, but put the results on report cards. Yes, the next time your daughter shows you a ?B' on her report card, don't get too excited. It might stand for "Bulky."

Actually, the schools would have to provide parents with their child's BMI

(blubber measurement index). BMI is a height-to-weight ratio that would tell parents if they need to be concerned. Johnny might weigh 200 pounds, but if he's 6-foot-4, he'll get a good score. If he's 3-foot-4, better widen the door.

The state of Arkansas passed a law in 2003 requiring schools to provide the BMI on a separate health report, not the academic report card. New York, Texas and other states might follow suit, as politicians try to combat childhood obesity, worried that it might lead to dire consequences, such as a doughnut shortage.

One recent study shows that nine million American schoolchildren are overweight, three times the number in 1980 and nine million times the number in Somalia. (Not including the president's kids.)

Kids are eating too much junk food and not getting enough exercise. In other words, they're acting like adults. That itself should scare them, never mind the drill sergeant disguised as their gym teacher. "Hup, two, three, four! Pick your stomach off the floor!"

Many children spend their free time watching TV, playing videogames and chatting online, burning fewer calories than a snail. Every now and then, you might spot some teen-agers running outside, but there's usually a police car involved.

Their diets consist of calorie-laden drinks (Coke, Pepsi, Sprite), fat-laden foods (pizza, burgers, fries) and sugar-laden snacks (cake, cookies, doughnuts). In fact, their food is so laden, you'd think it was a sneaky plot from Osama bin Laden. "OK, men, here's the plan. First, we get them all fat, then we just keep running until they surrender."

Some schools are trying to change what children eat, offering healthier food in cafeterias and vending machines. But getting a kid to eat an orange instead of chips isn't easy, especially when Mom and Dad survive on Doritos. (If you think they're too old to have a good time in bed, you should see the crumbs.)

No matter what schools try to do, parental responsibility is still the key. Parents don't need schools to tell them that their children are overweight, that they need more exercise. It should be fairly obvious, if not from the never-slowing appetite, then from the never-moving backside.

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