The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 11, 2012

Our View: Schools no substitute for parents

The Joplin Globe

— We look to schools to provide our children with the fundamentals required for learning.

We depend on teachers to instill that knowledge in the classroom.

We hope that our children will find role models at their schools, whether they be administrators, educators, coaches, a school cook or a bus driver.

But when it comes to basic life skills, well, we should not fault the education system for failures that belong squarely on the shoulders of parents.

A new report by the Institute of Medicine implies that the key to battling the national obesity epidemic may lie within schools. Two-thirds of U.S. adults and nearly a third of children are either overweight or obese, according to the report, and those behind the document think schools may be able to change that by mandating at least 60 minutes of exercise for children per day and by serving healthier foods.

Missouri mandates that students receive at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. That’s 30 minutes a day. According to a Globe report published earlier this week, elementary students in Joplin have about 50 to 75 minutes of physical education classes per week. Joplin middle school students have one semester of P.E. per school year for 48 minutes per day. High school students are required to have two semesters of P.E. during their four years of high school; that is about 48 minutes, five days a week.

We have no problem with physical education being part of the school curriculum. Nor do we have a problem with serving up healthy lunches and teaching children from an early age how to maintain a healthy weight.

But, if we continue to look to schools to be the cure-all for our kids, then we’ve lost sight of the root of the problem — it’s up to parents to be responsible for their children’s health. One hour of exercise and a healthy lunch won’t erase hours spent on a couch and a nightly menu of fast food.

Megan Hoyt, president of the Cecil Floyd PTA in Joplin, told our reporters that addressing the obesity issues also starts at home.

“As a parent, physical activity is a part of our family,” she said.

Until parents are willing to serve as good role models for their children, we won’t win the obesity war — or any other life skills challenge, for that matter.

The key to the obesity battle should unlock the door at home.