Parents used to just look at the grades on their child's report card. In places like Arkansas, though, report cards now spell out if your child is obese.
According to one of our national newspapers, Body Mass Index information is also included in report cards in the U.K. and Malaysia, and it may be having a positive effect in Arkansas.
Desperate times, right? Let's be honest: we're getting fat and it's happening quickly. Plentiful, high calorie food and inactivity are colliding with an ancient biology that instructs us to eat whenever food's available and rest whenever we aren't being chased by saber-tooth tigers. The result is a wave of obesity that may kill our kids years too young and threatens to bankrupt our health-care system.
None of which justifies putting a child's BMI on his report card.
Body Mass Index is a number based on height and weight. It's a useful indication of weight trends for populations although of less value for individuals. For example, a short, lean, heavy bodybuilder might have the same BMI as a couch potato with 30 per cent body fat.
But kids aren't bodybuilders, usually, so contesting the value of the number is secondary. The real problem here is government overreach. Make no mistake, there is a kind of bureaucrat - and surely we have them here - who thinks average people need to have their lives marshaled, documented and guided for their own good. No level of intervention by the benevolent hand of government is too much.
Kids don't need to be told they're fat. They know they're fat, and their parents know, too. If educators want parents to know the health risks of obesity, send a pamphlet on the subject home with all students. If educators want to take concrete action, change the curriculum: an hour of PE a day, and an attempt to use physical activity in all subjects. Why can't a biology class include an hour a week working on a school vegetable garden, for example? And yes, we support removing junk food from school cafeterias and vending machines.
But endorse BMI report cards? Fat chance.