The epidemic of childhood obesity hit this nation like an over-capacity elevator hits the floor. At their age, school children should not be expected to know enough or have the maturity to make choices that will most benefit their health. Without prompting, some adults may not be able to make those choices, either. Since most Americans 16 and under spend the majority of their daylight hours in and around a classroom, it only makes sense to incorporate healthy behaviors into their daily school regimen.
The Virginia House of Delegates took a running start in the right direction with their new bill. If signed into law, by 2014, there will be a mandatory 150 minutes per week of physical education in all Virginia public elementary and middle schools. I’m not by any means a full-fledged grown-up, but the world of difference I see makes me feel like it was lifetimes ago that my mother had to force me to come inside from our street hockey games. Now the flick of a wrist is made with a virtual hockey stick, from the comfort of the family room. The way I grew up, kids didn’t have choices. Those who knew better, taught us to do better. I hope we realize that someone has to come up with a solution and actually do something about, instead of just talking about, childhood obesity. We can’t watch documentaries and talk shows and pity “those people”, when those people are growing (in size and quantity) every day. Airlines offended us when they made overweight individuals pay for more than one seat on a flight. We watch, from our couches no less, with amusement as our fellow Americans vie to be the biggest loser. Virginia took matters into its own hands when television shows and airline fines did not do the trick. As Americans, we are probably most sensitive about people telling us how to raise our kids. Well, 31% of Virginian 10-17 year olds obese or overweight is not anything to brag about. As Delegate James M. Scott said, “parents need a little help.” So, why not change the status quo?
The opposing team is mostly comprised of school officials who are worried about what the cost of these new mandates will do to already shrinking school budgets. If kids’ waistlines aren’t shrinking, there really is no argument to be made. When mortality from diabetes and heart disease is not shrinking, there is no argument to be made. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a lofty paycheck to supervise a game of basketball, as substitute teachers do it in the place of “PE Coaches” every day. It may sound to some like big government infringing on our personal freedoms. To others, it may be the sound of fewer nickels rubbing together in their pockets. But, to me, 150 minutes a week of sweaty 6th graders’ sneakers wearing out a gymnasium floor sounds like a healthier nation. Game on!