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In The News: Britain Opens Pandora’s Box

Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom_3x5Today’s Sydney Morning Herald reports on the latest — and mega controversial — developments in Britain’s public schools: “[elementary] school [students] identified as overweight will automatically be offered a place on a state-funded diet and exercise scheme.”

Here’s how it will work:

  • At the beginning of this school year, all elementary school students will be weighed
  • Weights will also be recorded at the end of the school year
  • At that time, parents will receive a report that identifies their child(ren) as underweight, healthy, overweight, or very overweight
  • Children who do not fall into the “healthy” category will be offered state-funded weight management services for the summer.  Those identified as ‘very overweight’ will also be referred to pediatricians

Some parent associations are up in arms, claiming that branding children as overweight will encourage bullying, and that this measure is akin to a dictatorship.  I say — bollocks!

How, exactly, does this measure encourage bullying?  Results are confidential and only shared with parents, not the student body.

The unfortunate truth is that if a child is obese, he or she is probably already a target of mean-spirited harassment by classmates.  An official — and confidential — classification is a moot point.

In fact, teachers could take advantage of this new policy to address body image issues in the classroom.

In middle school, I was relentlessly made fun of by my gym class for being a horrible basketball and baseball player (whenever I see a baseball glove I twitch and mentally take myself to a “happy place”), but that doesn’t mean I would support the removal of physical education from school curricula.

As for cries of “dictatorship”?  Unwarranted.  Parents are being offered — not forced to send their children to — weight management services.

I have spoken to so many parents of overweight children who feel so impotent and helpless and, from what they’ve told me, would be thrilled to receive this type of support and help from schools.

I think the real issue here is that parents don’t want to hear that their children are overweight because they somehow perceive that as a critique of their parenting skills.  This is not an “identify the bad parents” initiative!

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One Comment

  1. Beth said on September 7th, 2009

    As long as everything is discrete, good. Sometimes for the sake of health, you have to call a spade a spade regardless of if it hurts or not. I was one of those kids in school that needed this program. My mom was always to afraid of hurting my feelings (young girls are soo self conscious) instead of helping to fixing the problem. I often wonder if I would have the problems with it today if someone had re-directed me when I was much younger and things are easier to establish a habit with for the future. It would have made later high school years much easier. I got lucky in that I played sports and did well at school so I wasn’t often made fun of, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t realize I was heavier than my peers, knew what the first insult behind my back was, knew why boys just wanted to be friends or look at thinner girls with sadness. As long as the school nurse does it discretely and doesn’t judge in the process, go for it. The obesity problem obviously isn’t getting better. Parents these days are far to self righteous when getting any suggestion about their kids or parenting skills and today’s kids seem to be raised with big entitlement issues because of it. The effects of Internet, TV, video games, sitting around all day chatting and eating all this processed crap instead of learning good habits is really starting to show.

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