Raising Kids To Be Unhealthy

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - December 12, 2007
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Kids nowadays! In my day, we didn’t get a ride to school. No siree, we had to walk, my sister and me, two miles each way, rain or shine, sometimes through snow and sleet. Sometimes the snow was so deep we’d hafta walk on top the fence posts along the way to keep from disappearing! Yes, siree, in my day ...!

“In my day ...” Doesn’t that phrase conjure up visions of grumpy old Grandpa Pettibone railing against “newfangled” ideas and practices? The fact is, there really are some things about “nowadays” that simply can’t hold a candle to the good ol’ “in my day.”

At the risk of eliciting the “here we go again” eye roll anytime someone starts a thought with “in my day ...” I’m gonna do it anyway. Here goes!

In my day ... we didn’t have the problem of childhood obesity that we do nowadays! Yeah, we had fat kids in school, but certainly not a third of the school population as recently determined by national studies.

I recently saw a picture of a pudgy 11-year-old boy who spent so much time at his computer he used bubble wrap to pad his wrist to relieve his carpal tunnel syndrome. CTS at 11 ... and diabetes at 18!

Computer games are becoming more sophisticated and obsessive than ever, and trolling the Internet from MySpace to Face Book to You Tube can keep a kid pinned to his seat for hours. Add all this to the butt-broadening addiction to unmonitored TV and a sedentary (fat conducive) lifestyle just comes easier than it did ... in my day.

In my day ... after-school hours and weekends were for unorganized, active play. Pickup games of touch football, sand lot baseball, two-on-two basketball, kick-the-can, hopscotch, jump rope or, heck, just dirt clod fights in the vacant lot. Nowadays everything’s just too darned organized, and requires a car to get there.

In my day ... we had no greasy fast foods, a well-known contributor to obesity. But a more insidious culprit is sugar. Just go down the the breakfast cereal row at the grocery store and you will find that cereal brands with less then 10 grams of sugar per serving are rare. And what really sucks you in is that healthy-looking picture on the front of the box - whole grain flakes, fruit nuggets, pecans, wheat tufts - but check the specs and you get 23 grams of sugar per serving. And you can double that for a real-life “serving size.”

So clueless-parent-allowed lifestyles and clueless-parent-allowed diets are huge contributors to childhood obesity, but a third cause, and the one that really torques me, is the decline or elimination of physical education in our public schools. According to a recent editorial in a Honolulu daily, “Requiring more P.E. time, for example, will ... require a serious look at how all this would fit into an already significantly shortened school day, a result of teachers’ union contracts.”

In my day ... we went to high school from 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. five days a week, seven periods a day. Daily P.E. was required. If you played a varsity sport, you had last-period P.E., which just ran into after-school practice. Childhood obesity was never an issue.

This isn’t rocket science. If it worked then, why not now? Too often the problems or shortcomings in Hawaii’s public school system are traceable back to the HSTA, in this case, the refusal to take full advantage of the time in each day to educate our kids, academically and physically. If we must pay our teachers commensurately more to teach a full day, five days a week, we must find a way. And we all know there’s enough pork in the DOE bureaucracy to find the funds. We are represented by a Board of Education that is supposed to figure this out. Call your board member or send them a copy of this column.

The state will spend less money on full-time teachers than on medical care for the citizens of the next generation who were never taught healthy habits when we had ‘em - like they did ... in my day!

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