Childhood Obesity: Schools and the Effect They

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It is 11:59, and seven year old Johnny sits anxiously in his seat, entranced as he stares at the second hand slowly creeping around the clock and awaiting the moment when the minute will pass and lunchtime will begin. The bell rings, and Johnny dashes from the seat that has confined him from the freedom that can only be found in the school cafeteria. He reaches in his pocket, filtering through various candy wrappers, and pulls out the five-dollar bill his mother gave him on his way out the door. He vigorously hands the lunch-lady his crumpled up five in exchange for an empty tray, and races to the cornucopia of high-cholesterol delights, salted and sugary snacks, and carbonated drinks. His eyes light up as he stacks his once empty tray with a handful of fried chicken fingers, a slice of cheese pizza, one chocolate chip cookie, and finally after passing up the apple juice, milk and water, grabs the last coca-cola to compliment the theme of his nutrition choices. After consumption, Johnny is too full to spend the remainder of his lunch break playing dodge ball or swinging from the monkey bars, instead he reaches into his backpack and pulls out his gameboy to entertain him during the rest of his free time. As a result of Johnny’s day at school, he has gotten little physical activity and a questionable nutritional experience. Consequently, Johnny suffers from childhood obesity, contributing to the nearly doubled rate over the past decade. Obesity in American children is no longer a rarity; it is rapidly escalating, and furthermore destroying the health and emotional status of the children affected. Unfortunately, many people in the general public do not consider childhood obesity to be a problem of more than aesthetic dimensions, even despite the fact that three hundred thousand Americans die each year from being overweight or obese (Greenblat). Furthermore, it is costing Americans 117 billion dollars each year on health problems related to the epidemic (Nakaya). With schools eliminating recess, requiring fewer physical education classes, providing vending machines throughout campuses and offering fast foods and fatty foods on campus, they are consequently paving the dangerous road that leads to this destructive disease.

In recent years, physical activity and health education have been severely limited as a result of pressures schools must respond to in order to be considered successful. A powerful example of these pressures is statewide standardized testing, which directly effects how schools are funded. Furthermore, because many states have performed poorly on math, science, or reading tests, their funds have been dramatically lowered as a result of their academic failure. Consequently, in order to improve on key curriculum areas, the “non-essential” subjects have lost funding to increase time devoted to the tested subject areas. Therefore, schools have suffered losses in the arts, music, physical education, and health to make time to improve in subjects such as math, science, and reading. Indeed, schools are continuing to cut back recess time and are requiring fewer physical education classes in high school and middle school. Kansas is the only state that still requires physical education classes through the twelfth grade. Now, fewer than forty percent of children remain active by the time they reach high school and less than one third of them are taking any kind of physical education classes (Greenblatt). In Atlanta, they are even building elementary schools without any playgrounds, indirectly implying the un-importance of physical activity and health. If children are not able to run around and be active, they will likely develop poor habits that will carry into adulthood, thus affecting the rest of their lives. According to Larry Tucker, a professor of Physical Education at Brigham Young University, “physical activity, which helps keeps off weight and cardiac disease, is abysmally low among children. It is a vicious...
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