Academic journal article Education Next

Kids and Exercise

Academic journal article Education Next

Kids and Exercise

Article excerpt

Thanks to "Don't Sweat It" (features, Fall 2006) and "Not Your Father's PE" (research, Fall 2006), we now know that top-down solutions to child obesity offer minimal benefit. A "bottom-up" approach would be to change the way we fund schooling. We fund systems; we do not fund students. Because districts tend to add classrooms to existing structures as enrollment grows, we have large schools.

District consolidation also put us on the road to supersize schools. In 1931, there were 120,000 school districts. By 2000, there were fewer than 15,000. University of Chicago professor Christopher Berry ("School Inflation," research, Fall 2004) studied the period of greatest school-district consolidation, 1930-70. Berry found a consistent correlation of .70 between school size and district size, across states. Big districts have big schools.

How do big schools lead to inactive, overweight kids? To go to and from big, consolidated schools--often at remote sites--children wait for and sit in buses instead of walking or bicycling to a nearby school and playing in the schoolyard before and after the bell. High schoolers and middle schoolers are doubly afflicted: when they finally arrive at their very large schools, they find that the most popular sports are dominated by elite athletes. A glance at almost any high-school annual of the 1920s through the 1950s (before the final wave of consolidation) will reveal a lot of skinny young people, small senior classes, and wide participation in the major sports.

Were we to fund students rather than systems, such schools--and skinny kids--would make a comeback.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

TOM SHUFORD

Retired Public School Teacher

Lenoir, North Carolina

For combating kids' weight problems, K-12 dance education offers unique potential. …

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