World War II demonstrated to the United States the effects of a lack of physical fitness.
Many draftees were unable to serve, as they were considered too unfit. In the years that followed, a new emphasis was placed on fitness. One of the major programs that came out of those years was the idea of physical education in schools.
Physical Education Was Once Very Important
For fifty years, physical education was required of children everywhere. Though debates about body issues and shared locker rooms raged, the questions addressed only the specific whys and wherefores of the programs.
Only a very small minority seriously advocated doing away with physical education altogether. Especially with the boom of the fitness revolution, it seemed quite obvious that fitness should start at a young age.
History makes it all the more confusing that today, as war raged in Iraq, physical education was suddenly cut from school calendars across the nation. While everyone from front line educators to the President of the United States blathers on about “back to basics” and new educational accountability, an entire generation of students suffers.
Obesity Is At Epidemic Levels In Some Western Countries
Obesity has become an epidemic in the United States. According to statistics from the American Heart Association, one-third of American children are overweight. Restaurant portions are larger than ever, and even kids’ meals have been super-sized at many fast food restaurants.
What Role Have The Parents Played?
Surely some of the blame goes to parents, whose responsibilities include encouraging physical activity. Kids are required by law to be at school for a certain number of hours each day, thus the school is partly responsible for the bodies as well as the minds of the children in its care. Many educators express frustration at the current situation, but must follow state mandates regarding what to teach. They are not allowed to simply forge their own course.
What About Over Medication?
Another, even scarier, epidemic facing kids today is over-medication. Record numbers of children have been recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The treatment of choice for this condition is Ritalin. Certainly many kids legitimately suffer from this disorder, and medication may be truly needed in some cases.
But how many of these kids are falling victim to the combination of overly busy parents, who want a one-stop answer to life’s problems, and schools that have taken away their free time to run and play and simply be kids?
It used to be taken for granted that kids needed play time, an opportunity to let off steam and work through their problems. Only a few years ago, children were not even seated at the same dinner table with adults, as they were expected to be unable to sit quietly through a long meal. Now they are expected to sit quietly through an entire school day, respecting the rules and paying attention to lessons.
Would we, as children, have been able to do any better?
Has The Loss Of Physical Education In Schools Contributed To Obesity And Over Medication
The loss of physical education in schools has been a major contributing factor to two epidemics in children: obesity and over-medication. As conscientious parents, concerned with our children’s fitness, it is our obligation to work towards changing the system. In the meantime, the best parents can do is to ensure that their children have plenty of playtime outside of school.
From organized sports to a game of tag in the backyard, it is crucial to get our kids moving. As with everything else, the parent must model the behavior, so be sure to get out and play with your kids. It is an investment in both your health and theirs.