April 23, 2010

"Too Fat to Fight" is Your Fault, America

There's been a lot of talk recently about the fact that more than a quarter of young adults in the U.S. are unable to meet physical requirements to join the military. This makes a whole lot of sense when one considers the national obesity rates overall.

Mission: Readiness is an organization working to help America's youth "succeed academically, stay physically fit, and abide by the law" so that the pool of military recruits stops looking as abysmal as it does now. According to the Mission: Readiness site, 75% of American's youth aged 17-24 do not meet the military's minimum standards because they've either dropped out of high school, have a criminal record, or have physical problems (read: obesity and obesity-related issues, such as diabetes).

I think it's great that Mission: Readiness has thrown the weight of the military community (har, har) behind the efforts to make America's youth healthier. Naturally, though, I care more about healthy eating for healthy eating's sake, whether America's youth grows up and joins the military or grows up, moves to Berkeley, and does just the opposite.

And I do think it's fantastic that improving school lunches has become something of a cause célèbre among the nation's celebrities. But there's a way bigger issue at hand here than just school lunches: America's kitchen illiteracy. I've ranted about this before, but I'm concerned that it's being overlooked by a bunch of pretty famous people who are too scared to tell America the truth: that parents are literally throwing away their children's futures by feeding them processed, take-out, boxed-up trash at home and then letting them sit in front of the T.V. all night. It's easy to blame schools; it's much harder to blame ourselves.

I don't know if this makes me a Republican (heaven help me if it does), but I think it's time America learned its lesson by failing (and by failing, I mean some serious, scary health crises) instead of having preventative mandates about school lunches forced down its throat. As we've seen on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, Americans don't like being told what to do (especially by a nosy outsider with a funny accent, right?). And, as tough and dangerous as it might be, wouldn't the importance of learning to prepare healthful meals and get exercise be a much more permanent lesson if Americans learned it the hard way?

I don't wish poor health on anyone, particularly not on children. But how are we supposed to get Americans to internalize these lessons?

Right now, we live in a country where Home Economics, a class that taught students how to cook, clean a house, shop for groceries on a budget, plan meals, sew, or do minor home repairs, is a dirty word. Of course, the gender roles that Home Ec perpetuated for so long are deplorable, but where else are students (of both sexes) going to learn how to be functional humans? Are we going to raise a nation of fatties who are completely dependent on others to survive? Who drive a block to eat at a McDonald's?

We either need to bring Home Ec back and rely on teachers to show America's youth how to function (you know...in addition to how to read, calculate, observe, think, and exercise), or we need to wake America's parents up and show them what they're doing to their kids and themselves. Soon, the whole country will be too fat to fight, but just saying that and blaming schools won't cut it.


  1. In my home ec class we made...nachos.

  2. Look at school cafeteria menus... that's the nutrition standard you'll see in any home ec type class.