Monday, December 3, 2007

A Proposal to Stop the Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Twenty or so years ago your neighborhood boy and his friends probably looked quite like Beaver or Wally Cleaver. Healthy, active, outside all the time. However, now there is a good chance at least one of those children looks more like Augustus Gloop. Overweight, even obese, gobbling up all the chocolate bars and any other fast, fatty, sugary, unhealthy food he can get his chubby little hands on, and the only exercise he gets is when he gets up to look for the remote.

This little problem has turned into quite the epidemic. It is estimated that one third of all U.S. children are overweight or at risk of becoming over weight, and anywhere from five to twenty five percent of kids and teens are obese. The number of overweight kids ages six to eleven has doubled, and the number of overweight teens has tripled, all within the last two to three decades.

A change needs to happen somewhere. And I propose that all schools, both public and private, become year round, live in boarding school, where every single aspect of a child’s and teen’s life can be monitored and controlled.

This may seem like an absurd solution, but looking at it more closely, you can see that it would benefit more than just the students.

While all schools would be boarding schools, they would still either be classified as private, with parents paying the tuition, or public, with the government and taxes paying for the tuition. Many parents are not home enough to monitor what their kids are eating and doing after school. That is one of the main time periods when kids eat unhealthy food and play video games or what TV for hours. Parents that are poor wouldn’t have to pay for the child to go to school, but also wouldn’t have to pay for the day to day care of that child, including food, cleanliness, and medical care. The parents would have time to become better educated and be able to take better care of themselves, afford healthier food and better medical care, and also be able to take better care of their children when they come to visit.

While at first the students may not be very happy about having every aspect of their life controlled, they will soon be too busy to have time to worry about it. Students will be required to participate in a sport all year long; fall, winter, and spring. There will be many options, including soccer, football, swimming, basketball, tennis, baseball, and many others. Unlike it is with many sports now, if you try out for a sport you cannot be cut, you are guaranteed the ability to play. It may not be on Varsity, but it will be on JV, “C” team, or, if need be, “D” team. Playing sports will be a graduation requirement and there will be no way of getting out of it.

The schools will have a strict entertainment and electronic policy. Students are not allowed to watch TV or play video games (hand held or those that attach to TVs) at all. They will only have access to computers for educational and homework purposes. They can’t play games, go on MySpace, or any other non-educational purposes.

Not only will students be required to play sports but they will also be required to take at least two semester of P.E. every year, compared to the three semesters total (all four years of high school) we currently have at this school. They will be placed in a class based on their ability. No longer will a student who can run ten miles be able to take a power walking class. For each class, there will be a required number of miles that must be run (or walked in the case of power walking classes) each week. Also to graduate, you must be able to run a mile in a certain amount of time (determined by your ability and class level). If students refuse to run, just because they don’t want to, they will be punished, usually by having to run at least twice what they refused to.

Once a week, most likely during their P.E. class, every student will be weighed and measured. This is just to check that students are getting enough activity and eating the right amount. This will be done in front of the class, not to embarrass the student but to compel them to do what they are supposed to do to remain healthy and fit.

Exercise would not be the only thing that the school controls. They would also control what the students eat. Currently, at this school, they serve greasy pizza, glutinous gravy, and sugar coated maple bars. However, in my proposal, three healthy balanced meals and two healthy snacks would be provided each day. Students would not be allowed to go off campus to get food, which would probably put many fast food restaurants out of business (another positive thing that comes from this proposal). Schools would not be allowed to serve anything fried or full of fat or sugar. Any student found to be in possession of any unhealthy food would be punished with detention, the amount being determined by the severity of their infraction.

Students would not be allowed to leave campus, not just for food, but for anything. Each school would have a store where students could buy anything they need. It would stock school supplies, personal supplies, and a limited number of clothing items, with any other needed items being bought by a parent and being brought to the school or with a parent over break. The only reason any student would be allowed to leave campus is if they have a medical problem that could not be treated by the medical personnel at the school. If that is the case they will be transported to the nearest hospital that has the ability to treat them.

Students would be required to talk with their counselors, the school psychologist, and the school nutritionist (all schools would be required to have at least one person for each of the three positions). They would be able to talk to them as often as they want but would be required to go at least once a week to make sure they are happy, healthy, and aren’t having any problems. A once a month visit with the nurse and/or doctor would also be required to make sure they are developing properly and don’t have any health problems.

Teachers will have strict instructions to hand out no more than twenty minutes of homework each night to any student. This ensures that every student will be able to participate in their sport without falling behind in class, while still being able to go to bed at their strict ten o’clock bedtime, both during the week and on weekends. Students must also get up no later than seven o’clock on week days, this will give them just enough time to get to class by eight o’clock, and nine o’clock on weekends, so they can participate in all the weekend activities the school with provide.

As will current year round schools, the students will have several short breaks throughout the year. On those breaks, the students will be allowed to go home and stay with their parents; however there will be many rules they must follow. Students are not allowed to be unsupervised for extended periods of time, they must be watched to make sure they follow all the rules. They are required to eat healthy balanced meals and keep a food diary to be turned in when they return to school. Also, they must exercise every day for at least one hour, to keep up their level of activity for when they return to P.E. classes and sports. As with time spent at school, watching TV and playing video games is forbidden. Any broken rules will result in detention and no longer being able to spend vacations at home with their families. For those students who can’t or don’t want to spend the break with their parents, they will be able to stay at the school on a weekend schedule for the entire break.

As you can see, this proposal, though being somewhat harsh at first appearance, would indeed be effective. I am not forcing you to agree with me, but I do not know of any other option that would be able to stop this epidemic from affecting every child in the U.S. Before we know it ten year olds will be weighing two hundred pounds and it won’t be uncommon for heart disease and diabetes to claim victims under twenty.


Rachelle said...

When you first told me of your proposal I didn't know how you were going to make it sound like there was a possibility of it happening, but you did it! I loved how you decided on making the kids do a food diary over vacation. I also liked how you included statistics and such on obesity.

Skye Olson said...

The ridiculousness of your proposal definitely is able to emphasize the obesity problem we have in our country, as well as the over-the-top health programs that have been suggested to fix it. Your piece is very cleverly written and effective, and the only other thing I would have liked to have seen in your proposal would be some actual suggestions on how to fix the problem, like those Swift includes at the end of his essay. But overall it was an excellent satire which really brings to light a rapidly growing issue that we have yet to find a decent solution to.

kelsie said...

Nicole- I thought you really did well in satirizing a topic such as this one. I thought it was hilarious that each child had to see a psychiatrist at least once a week, since you could imagine that a school such as the one you are proposing would probably be difficult to handle. I liked how every time you mentioned an unhealthy food you usually accompanied it with an adjective such as "glutinous" and "sugar coated." Overall, great job.

Chasina said...

You did really well in showing obesity as a real problem. You supported your diagnosis well with facts in the beginning and your outrageous proposal made me think how could this problem actually be solved? You were able to create a similar effect to Swift's essay.

Melissa said...

I really loved your essay. The way you completely went over the top with your proposed solution really drew attention to the issue at hand. What you proposed was so drastic and so strict that it helped to show just how big of an issue this is and how it needs to be taken much, much, much more seriously then it currently is. I completely agree with you that obesity is a large problem within our country. My favorite part of your piece is how you said even when the kids are at home during vacation they still can't watch television or play video games. I felt this really helped to show just how seriously this issue should be taken. Wonderful job!

Brandon Rogers said...

Well done! I was hopping that some one would address this topic and you sure did!. Very well written; you covered every aspect of the obesity problem. I don't know about everyone else, but i would rather exercises then go to one of your schools.

Anonymous said...

In 1971 only 4% of 6-to-11-year-old kids were obese; by 2004, the figure had leaped to 18.8%. In the same period, the number rose from 6.1% to 17.4% in the 12-to-19-year-old group, and from 5% to 13.9% among kid’s ageing between 2 to 5. Include all overweight kids, and a whopping 32% of all American children now carry more pounds than they should.