To the People

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

School Obesity Fight Gets Some Backlash

There are a lot more fat kids than there used to be, and that is not good, but the tactics that schools have embraced to combat it have gotten so extreme that there is a backlash among parents, as the WSJ [subscription only] reported today.

At issue are not non-coercive measures such as improving the quality of school meals or taking out soda machines. Instead, what is causing backlash is that the government battle against obesity has become very invasive, with schools measuring students' body mass index (BMI) and including it on their report card. Even worse, the heaviest kids are "invited" to participate in school fitness and nutrition programs.
Across the country, the new rules are also sparking a backlash among parents, children and even some teachers and school officials. The efforts often draw derision for being too extreme and demonizing children. Arkansas, the first state to pass legislation requiring schools measure students' body-mass index, backtracked last month and now allows parents to refuse the assessment. The question of weight in Arkansas has been a sensitive one since former Gov. Mike Huckabee shed more than 100 pounds a few years ago and encouraged locals to follow his example.
Note to self: Huckabee is a Nanny Stater. More from the article:
Even determining who is overweight has proven nettlesome. Nine-year old Jeremy Holwell, who attends Lakeview Elementary, swims in a local league several nights a week and plays baseball in the summer. In January, Mrs. Holwell noticed a fitness assessment at the bottom of his nearly straight-A report card. Jeremy placed in the 97th national percentile: "overweight," according to the report.
As is clear in the case of Jeremy, BMI is an imprecise measure of fitness, as it is a crude height/weight calculation that does not measure actual body fat or correct for muscle weight. Ergo 56% of NFL players are considered obese, yet they are in better shape than 99.9% of the population and work out constantly. Yes, some of them are fat, but a majority of them are just very muscular. And how devastating to be Jeremy Holwell, who is a committed athlete at a fragile age to be deemed "obese" on his report card?

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