F for Fat

How fat are students in Pennsylvania's Southern Tioga School District? They so fat that, according to The New York Times, "60 percent of eighth graders in the district scored in the 85th percentile or higher in 2003-4; more than a quarter had scores in the 95th percentile or higher, meaning they were officially overweight." Those numbers are somewhat less impressive when you realize that "the percentiles are based on pre-1980 measurements because the current population of children is too heavy to use as a reference." Maybe every kid's weight is above average now.

Leaving aside the controversy over how much we should worry about weight per se, as opposed to the poor diet and sedentary lifestyle associated with it, the article illustrates how public schools, many of which are doing a pretty crappy job of educating children, are now taking on the mission of slimming them down as well. In addition to fiddling with vending machine and cafeteria offerings, an increasing number of schools are sending kids home with "obesity report cards" that include their body mass indexes and (in Pennsylvania, at least) a comparison with juvenile BMIs of the '70s. Aside from promoting anger among parents, self-consciousness among chubby kids, and anxiety even among thin ones (the story opens with a slender-looking 6-year-old girl who is afraid her teacher will be mad at her if she eats too much), what do these reports accomplish? No one is really sure. "Entire states are adopting a policy that has not been tested," one expert tells the Times, saying there has been "no solid research."

Even if there were evidence that adding BMIs to report cards led to weight loss, is this an appropriate function for schools, especially government-run schools? Is it reasonable to hold them responsible for what kids eat and how much energy they expend? Given the invasive implications, the idea should be at least as controversial as creationism and sex education.

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  • ||

    No Eating Disorder Left Behind.

    Do it for the children!

  • ||

    "what do these reports accomplish?"

    The bureaucracy is probably looking for a staff and budget increase. Someone's friend may need a government job, too.

  • Tym||

    Too bad they are not dogs.

  • ||

    JW (the original) | January 8, 2007, 11:51am | #

    Hmmm, maybe I should start wearing a red carnation so they can tell us apart?

  • ||

    A little peer pressure induced bulimia should cure this right up. Maybe some subsidized lipo for the laggards.

  • ||

    Don't worry folks. The system is on the verge of collapse. This insanity can't continue much longer.

  • Warren||

    Just more collateral damage from the WOD. Meth heads and junkies rarely suffer from obesity. Just sayin.

  • Juanita||

    I think perhaps we should have a "Fat Czar" to solve the problem.

  • Timothy||

    It makes me long for the days when mocking fat kids was enough to make them feel bad about themselves. Now kids are going to have the entire system to compete with? How on earth are weight-based social hierarchies going to survive this turmoil?

  • ||

    Perhaps all this angst might be better directed at making sure that schools don't cancel recess and phys ed classes? Many schools have done so.

    Perhaps bringing back the requirement to run 800m in 6 minutes might help on more than one front....

  • ||

    Well, if F is for Fat, then . . .

    A is for Anorexic
    B is for Bodacious
    C is for Cuddly
    and
    D is for Doughy.

  • Dan T.||

    Yes, let's just sit on our collective hands about this epidemic, and our children can receive a grade of "D" for "Dead" by the time they're 40.

  • ||

    Timothy,

    This is heading exactly where I feared it would. The fat will mate with the fat and spawn a new generation of super fat children, They'll be like crack babies, only fatter, and without the withdrawal shakes.

  • ||

    The fat will mate with the fat and spawn a new generation of super fat children

    Children of the corn...syrup!!!!

  • ||

    Aside from the obvious fact that public schools should be done away with so that only children whose parents have money can be educated, I agree that it is pretty absurd to think that schools should be concerned with childrens' well-being. That's the job of the soda and candy companies.

  • ||

    Let me assure you (as a one-time fat kid) that the fat kids know they're fat. Their parents know that they're fat and the kids in school know that they're fat. Saying that the school should let them know that they are fat is ridiculous and clearly only the fist step. Once just telling them they're fat doesn't work they will be put on an in school diet (i.e. kids over a certain BMI will only served different foods than the rest) and the final step will be charging parents with child neglect/endangerment if they fail to improve the child's BMI. Anyone want to start a pool on which city/state goes first? I go with NY.
    (x-post at Volokh)

  • ||

    FIRST dammit FIRST step

  • Bagger||

    "Anyone want to start a pool on which city/state goes first?"

    Somewhere in Cali...I'll go with Santa Monica.

  • ||

    [JW | January 8, 2007, 11:57am | #

    JW (the original) | January 8, 2007, 11:51am | #

    Hmmm, maybe I should start wearing a red carnation so they can tell us apart?]

    I suppose you could do that, if you like, but it would probably be easier for me to simply switch to lower-case initials. ;-)

  • ||

    A is for Anorexic
    B is for Bodacious
    C is for Cuddly
    and
    D is for Doughy.


    E is for Endomorphic.

    Boy, I hope little Sally doesn't fail Regurgitation again this quarter. She'll need a Bulimia tutor if so.

  • Sam Franklin||

    Looks like everybody's favorite young Jedi, Dr. T., has confused the diabetics with the fat kids again.

  • ||

    I suppose you could do that, if you like, but it would probably be easier for me to simply switch to lower-case initials. ;-)

    Subtle, but it works for me.

    Does that make me JW, the Upper? 8-D

  • ||

    "Aside from the obvious fact that public schools should be done away with so that only children whose parents have money can be educated"

    Perhaps only people who have money to support them should have children.

  • ||

    Yes, let's just sit on our collective hands about this epidemic, and our children can receive a grade of "D" for "Dead" by the time they're 40.

    Gladly. When lots of parents start outliving their failure-as-a-parent fatass kids, Maybe prospective parents will learn something.

  • ||

    "Children are so fat nowadays. Isn't there some way we can make money off of that?" -Agnes Skinner

    Seriously, Timothy has it right. Kids get it from their schoolmates, the media and, often, their parents. Now the Principal can call them into the office and light into them as well. In the increasingly unlikely event that I ever spawn my child will probably be heavy, since I was, and I can promise you that he/she will never set foot in a public school even if I have to knock over liquor stores to pay for a private one.

  • uncle sam||

    I've seen some mighty FAT people in PA.

  • ||

    Sounds like a good movie title to me.

  • ||

    As a male high school teacher, I wholeheartedly support this. I like my female students hot and slender.

  • ||

    Fat children took my life.

  • ||

    The BMI Charts are a lie.

    Iam 5'7" and weigh 170. There is not a single person I know who would describe me as anything but average to skinny. The BMI Charts all say I'm overweight.

    At my heaviest, I was 193. According to the BMI Charts I looked at, 191 was obese. Now I can buy that I was overweight. But obese? That's nothing short of laughable.

  • ||

    When the BMI first came out, 28 was considered the cutoff for overweight with obesity above 35.

    Because research shows that health effects did not substantially increase as the BMI dropped below about 25, the level for overweight was dropped to that and the level for obesity lowered to 30.

    In fact, the health difference between a BMI of 25 and a BMI of 28 is small.

  • ||

    Yes, let's just sit on our collective hands about this epidemic

    Count me in.

  • ||

    Dan T. is right, this is a health epidemic. This is a certifiable pandemic (medicare classifies obesity as a disease) and the CDC should use it's quarantine powers to isolate and treat these suffering children; in nutrition reeducation facilities, maybe.

  • Jennifer||

    Another reason why BMI is bullshit is that there's only one BMI chart for both men and women, despite the fact that a healthy woman will have a higher percentage of body fat than a healthy man.

  • ||

    Yeah , the parents know their kids are fat, because the parents are fat too. Perhaps the thinking is that this will somehow shame the parents. but how are they going to tell their kids they can't eat a tub of ice cream when they can't even help themselves? A while back The News Hour ran a clip of some PBS show (maybe NOVA) on the rising diabetes rates in children. Without exception, the parents were sloppy fat also. Poor kids never had a chance.

  • ||

    Manpad:

    I'm about the same as you, between 5'7 & 8, between 165 and 175 lbs. Right now I'm at 166, bodyfat is mid teens, you can see my ABS and my bmi says overweight. However, since I've been as heavy as 220, I know what real fat looks like.

    The thing is, while these kids are fat and know it, it's likely they have no idea how to eat healthy. And when Iwas in school, the idea of excercise for fat kids was running. Fat kids hate running, it hurts. Fat kids need to lift weights.

  • ||

    According to the body mass index used by the schools, I have been getting into better and better shape as I have become more seditary over the years! Funny, when I was "mobidly obese" and into weight lifting, I was considered quite skinny, and yet I now look like I have put on a few pounds now that I "lost weight".

    So, the solution to the obesity epidemic is clearly to discourage exercise! It helped get me into a more "healthy" government created catagory!

    Yay for the government enforcing a system that is not smart enough to take percentage body fat into consideration!

  • M||

    When fat is outlawed only outlaws won't be phat.

  • CS||

    I'm not an American, but I understand you have some kind of federally funded school lunch program. By the sounds of it, this program certainly isn't needed anymore.

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