Everywhere you look today, American children are under attack. Newspapers criticize them for being overweight. Television wails that they are obese. Radio talk shows claim that they're so fat, their SHADOWS weigh 24 pounds.
You know what? They're right.
I'm not saying that every single kid weighs too much. Just like not every professional football player is a spoiled, overpaid Prima Donna. However, it is rather alarming to see the percentage of kids who are overweight.
Every year at my school, the specialists who come to administer hearing and vision tests for the kids also do one other test. They examine the back of each child's neck. What they're looking for is a dark, crusty patch of skin. This patch, scarily enough, is an early indicator of diabetes.
Throughout the years that I've seen this examination performed, the trend has been consistent and unsurprising. The kids who have this patch on the back of their necks have always been the overweight kids.
So how do we curb this alarming trend? For starters, the kids need to learn moderation and nutrition. This will take time and effort, since they're already struggling to learn multiplication and comprehension.
Sometimes it seems as though school cafeterias (and by extension, school districts) are not making it easy. There are days at my campus where the main entrée is cheese sticks. Fried cheese sticks. Apples are often thrown away whole, while bags of chips are ripped open and licked clean.
I'm not joking when I say I've seen kids come to school with a 12-ounce bag of Hot Cheetos and a 1-Liter bottle of Pepsi for lunch. These kids sometimes bring a dollar as well -- so they can buy a couple of cookies for dessert. This madness has got to stop.
True, the kids do get some exercise at school. However, thirty minutes of Physical Education a day is not going to make our kids lean, mean, reading machines. There's got to be some work done at home as well. Let's get those kids involved in neighborhood sports clubs and away from the television set. Even better, how about some parent-child quality active time? Go on a bike ride, visit the local swimming pool, or just walk and talk around the block (poetry and motion).
Then, when you get back home, you can model good nutritional skills for your children. Go with those old Saturday morning mini-PSA cartoons starring "The Chomper” -- a Fonzie-style greaser who was all about healthy eating. When a group of friends entreated him to go out for ice cream, he smiled his toothy grin, flipped up the collar of his leather jacket, and replied, "No thanks, man! I'm chompin’ on some celery!"
We could use a few more role models like "The Chomper” nowadays. Because "The Deep-Fryer” just isn't getting it done.
John Pearson is a third-grade math and science teacher in Dallas, Texas. He has degrees in mechanical engineering from Duke University and Texas A&M, so most consider his math abilities adequate enough to teach nine-year olds. He is also the author of Learn Me Good (Lulu, 2006), a funny, fictionalized account of his first year in education. Read more at www.learnmegood.com