New P.E. plan lacks punch
As the U.S. rapidly progresses towards becoming a nation of the inert and obese, President George W. Bush has decided to take action by creating the Healthier U.S. Initiative. The program is designed to help Americans, especially children, live longer and healthier lives by challenging them to be physically active every day, eat a nutritious diet and make healthy choices.
But while he is touting his new drive towards fitness, President Bush is quietly undercutting the program at its roots by including in his Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 budget a $19 million cut from the Carol M. White Physical Education for Progress Program (PEP), the only federally funded program dedicated to granting money for physical education in local school districts. The president's budget cut is an ironic contradiction to his push for a healthier U.S. and will only send the message to America's youth that health and fitness are not high priorities.
According to Blair health teacher Susan Soule, the areas where the department will suffer most from the budget cut will be teacher training, workshops, adequate sports equipment and teaching resources, including updated textbooks. The inadequate funding will handicap the physical education department's ability to combat the unhealthy habits ingrained in adolescents that have caused obesity to become one of the leading causes of preventable death in the U.S, second only to smoking, according to http://www.obesity.org.
Downplaying the emphasis on physical activity in schools will deteriorate adolescent understanding of how and why to develop healthy habits to maintain for life, making the president's challenge to America's adults useless. "The message this budget cut is sending is that healthy eating and exercise isn't important," says Physical Education teacher Cynthia Changuris. As well as improving youth health, physical activity promotes the development of a positive self-image, social skills and discipline. According to MCPS Physical Education Coordinator Terri McCauley, students who participate in physical education have a stronger sense of self-worth and strive for personal, achievable goals.
Compounding the negative health effects of Bush's budget cut is the damage already done to health by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Despite the increase in childhood obesity and Type II diabetes, physical education classes are being cut short to accommodate the various academic goals set forth by the NCLB Act, according to Child Health News. However, many studies have shown that there is a definite correlation between exercise and nutrition and intellectual development. Blair's physical education department's mantra, 'healthy body, healthy mind,' stands true: "Physical education reinforces knowledge learned across the curriculum and serves as a laboratory for the application of content in science, math, reading, writing and social studies," says McCauley.
While Bush's initiative is commendable and absolutely essential, reducing the quality of physical education in schools will only serve as a barrier that prevents children from developing a healthy lifestyle.
Betsy Costillo. More »