Unfit to Learn
As Schools Cut Physical Education Programs, Classrooms May Feel the Impact
In mid-October, National Health Education Week was on the school calendar. But making the case for celebration was a decidedly mixed affair: The good news is that schools raised awareness among children, educators, and parents across the country about the importance of good nutrition, regular and lifelong physical activity, and other vital aspects of a healthy lifestyle. The bad news is that, under the budget priorities dictated by the federal standardized-test requirements in reading and math under the No Child Left Behind Act, our schools—the most logical point of intervention to ensure the health of our children—are perversely cutting health and physical education programs to the detriment of young people’s health and learning.
It is already apparent that an entire generation of inactive children and adolescents is at pronounced and growing risk of developing a host of serious and costly diseases in later life. The poor fitness of today’s students is beyond dispute. America’s young people are fat. We now have 9 million overweight children in the United States, or about 15 percent of the nation’s children and teenagers, triple the total in 1980.
That’s alarming enough, but it gets worse. The numbers of overweight and obese children are leading to an epidemic of diabetes, the country’s fifth leading cause of death. The prevalence rate of diabetes is now projected to increase by 165 percent—to some 30 million Americans—by the year 2050. And the true figure could end up being much higher if the nation’s Latino population, in which diabetes is diagnosed at twice the national rate, continues to grow...
This article is available to subscribers only.
To keep reading this article and more, subscribe now or start a 2-week FREE trial.
- The Berkeley Institute, HAMILTON, Bermuda
- Christ the King Preparatory School, NJ
- Amargosa Valley Elementary School, Amargosa Valley, NV
- Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning
- Roanoke City Public Schools, Roanoke, VA
- Round Rock ISD, Round Rock, TX