Thursday, August 24, 2006

Why Governments Shouldn't Raise Kids

To date, the Iron Pol blog has been free of the rampant political discussion prevelant in my original blog, The Running Pol. The link is really just a courtesy, and another is to tell you that there hasn't been much done there in ages, as all my blogging happens here.

However, a recent e-mail from my sister is just too interesting to ignore. Since I am unaware of any specific screen names of theirs, they will be known as "my sister," "AM Girl," and "Fire Girl." For the record, AM Girl is the older of my sister's daughters, and Fire Girl is the younger. Both are several years older than B-Boy and Monster Girl.

My sister and her family live in the Chicago area, and school is just getting started. She sent a note about a policy adopted for the new year, a policy which just begs for people to mock it. In order to combat childhood obesity, the school has enacted a policy that their morning snack can be no more than 200 calories. Anything over that is to be confiscated. In addition, the only drink allowed is water.

As an example, my sister sent AM Girl to school with a pack of Nature Valley crunchy granola bars and some sugar free applesauce as a dip. That is 230 calories. To ensure AM Girl was drinking, my sister also gave her a Crystal Light To Go mixer for her water bottle. The teacher, obviously clueless about Crystal Light, demanded AM Girl produce a wrapper to prove it was sugar free.

To keep things in perspective, AM Girl eats breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and lunch is at 12:25. So, for six hours, presumably including at least a recess, she is allowed a staggering 200 calories. While she isn't running any marathons, that low a caloric intake would result in a deficit in all but the most inactive of children. You know, the ones who have to be reminded to swallow. And blink. And breathe.

It is, however, a good thing that this school system is keeping an eye on AM girl. Her height places her in the 95th percentile for her age. Her weight, 5th percentile. Without the school keeping an eye on her, she might balloon up to, oh, say, below average weight. School boards attempting to raise children are missing huge chunks of information, such as medical conditions that might make their sweeping generalizations more harmful than helpful.

Fire Girl lives under a simpler program. Her snacks are to be fruits or veggies. That makes a bit more sense. Apparently younger children can eat more without gaining weight. I wonder how that is? It must certainly be a metabolism thing, as the schools seem to believe caloric intake is the only factor affecting obesity.

This is why the government, which includes school boards and school systems, should not raise children. While there are a great many teachers I might welcome to ASSIST in the rearing of my children, legislators are missing the key component to effective parenting, contact with the child. And, at least in the Glen Grove school district in Chicago, they lack any foundation of scientific or physiologic knowledge.

Until they are capable of understanding the relationship between calories consumed and calories burned, they will be unable to have a reasonable impact on childrens' health. Perhaps they should pass a policy mandating the schools hire personal coaches to evaluate the needs of each individual child. They might find that some of the children should be consuming 2000 calorie snacks instead of a measley 200.

I guess that's enough political ranting. It's time for me to go consume my 400 calorie snack. Like my niece, a 200 calorie snack will only help assure I lose too much weight.


Flatman said...

That is totally nuts. I would be penning an especially harsh letter if I were the parent.

Mom to great kiddos said...

You know, I was telling my husband just the other day that I think the school *food policies* are part of the CAUSE of childhood obesity.

I figure it this way (I am no scientist by any means), I was an obese adult. I have literally worked my tail to lose 70+ pounds. I'm still overweight though. To lose weight you need a calorie deficit, right?? Yes, they are giving our kids less calories, HOWEVER, our kids are only eating roughly 4 times a day. Breakfast then 4-6 hours later Lunch, 3 hours later snack at home and 1-2 hours later dinner.

So, I figure that kids are OVEReating at their meals to get them through to the next food break. Many *diets* out there suggest 6 small meals a day. Why?? So people don't OVEReat at their meals. I think, personally, kids should be getting at least TWO snack breaks at school in addition to lunch. That way, they don't overeat at their other meals.

Just my two cents. I hope it made sense.

Iron Pol said...

MTGK - You are exactly correct. In fact, talk to most athletes and they will tell you that they eat several smaller meals plus lots of snacks. It spreads the calorie intake out.

Our bodies have fewer calories sitting around in our bodies, so the processes that lead to fat are slowed. Plus, we eat less because we aren't so hungry.

But who are we, the healthiest group in the country, to say. We have school boards to take care of things.

nancytoby said...

Have they banned recess and cut gym back to two days per week, also?

Fe-lady said...

I just had a conversation about this very thing with a fellow teacher this morning.
I hate this. It's part of the reason I am retiring. Schools are suppposed to teach academics for the most part and provide socialzation and I think, opportunities to play sports. But with all the government cutbacks and potential lawsuits, we are now held accountable for a child's nutrition, health care and in many cases providing clothing/glasses/dental care...etc. etc.
Some parent, somewhere, blamed some school in some city for contiributing to their child's obesity. This is why teachers are forced to do this. I for one am not following the rules handed to me. I can't buy into it. Your daughter cuold eat anything she darn well wanted to if she had me for an instructor!

Fe-lady said...

And yes Nancy, with all the testing teachers have to do because of no child left behind, many teachers HAVE chosen to cut PE. Recesses are shorter also to increase instructional time spent sitting at desks so one can pass the next test thrown their way!

Danielle said...

Back in my home state of Massachusetts, legislators are fighting over whether or not to restrict the fluffernutter sandwich as the school lunch to once a week... Hmmm, marshmallow-peanut-butter goodness!

mishele k said...

To, uh, take the unpopular side on this argument, one thing I think is going unnoticed is that parents who teach good eating habits to their children—like you and your sister seem to—are in the distinct minority. I have no kids and only really see them when I’m trying to avoid them in the grocery store, but judging from parents’ carts and the size of the neighborhood not-so-munchkins, most folks aren’t sending their kids to school with granola and applesauce. School authorities see this happening before them and are trying to help, though clearly not in effective ways. But when you see an epidemic careening your way, can you ignore it? Isn’t it better to enact a well meaning but misguided blanket policy and deal with the healthy minority (like your family) separately? I almost think so.

Iron Pol said...

Mishele, it's always good to have people offer ideas from "the other side."

One big assumption from your comment is that the schools have some right/responsibility to control the diets of students and that parents want/desire them to do so.

There might be weight issues with our children (big picture). That is a fact in most developed societies. The questions are, "Who is responsible for controlling the weight of children?" and "Will enforcing a smaller snack have an impact." My response would be, in order, the parents, and hardly.

Blanket policies are exactly the problem. You can't raise children by general rules. That is why parents should do it. And if they choose not to, we can only hope there are others there to step in. Teachers tend to do that, regardless of rules and policies.

Comm's said...

gosh darn this is a good post. Good job at showing how wrong minded educators can be when they begin to try to raise my son for me.

No thanks I can do a better job.