Ric Latarski - School system has more to worry about than fat students

Let me get this clear in my mind: Georgia trails everyone except Bangladesh in SAT scores, class size is still a problem, No Child Left Behind is a tangle of bureaucratic subterfuge, Gov. Sonny Perdue killed the foreign language program for elementary schools and we have one school system - Clayton County - so poorly managed it's about to lose its accreditation and students have petitioned the school board to resign.

And right in the middle of all this comes a bill in the General Assembly that would require - require - public elementary school systems to weigh children twice a year to determine their body mass index.

The idea is to track a student's BMI - which, once it reaches a certain point, could stand for Big Moving Individual - in an effort to fight obesity in children.

Sending home a note advising parents their child is fat is not going to be news to most parents, especially if they happen to resemble the Goodyear blimp.

This bill was sponsored by Sen. Joseph Carter, a Republican from Tifton. Republicans are supposedly against big guvmint, but in this case that must mean if some legislator can get his son down to less than whale size when strings are pulled to get him a state job, the argument can still be made that guvmint is smaller.

Naturally, if we have BMI checks, then there must be supporting material, because we can't do anything in education without supporting material.

Textbooks like "You Never Saw a Fat Caveman So Evolution is a Crock" could become required reading. Georgia could be the first state to bring in Martha Stewart as a guest teacher to present a course on, "How to Commit Perjury and Low-Fat Dinners."

Of course, if worked right, the BMI test could help move Georgia up in national educational rankings. Add a student's BMI to their SAT scores and Georgia leaps ahead of everyone. We'll call this the Georgia Combo No. 1, otherwise known as the SAT with a side of fries.

Certainly, if we're going to weigh students, then we're obligated to weigh legislators.

We check their BMI before the General Assembly goes into session and then when they adjourn. It should be pretty easy to see who has been getting all those Cheetah III lunch buffets on the lobbyists' tabs.

However, a BMI check would put an end to the famous Wild Hog Supper legislators attend each year. From now on, it would be the Tossed Salad with Lo-Cal Oil and Vinegar Supper. If nothing else, this might kill some pork legislation.

Checking the BMI of elected officials might even have a positive affect on campaign finance reform. You start charging $500 a plate for lettuce and tabouli and the field of candidates for elected office will thin out pretty quick.

There are no doubt many reasons for overweight children, but you seldom hear anyone blaming the mindset that has helped produce our current lifestyle.

We are so afraid of a youngster falling behind and not knowing algebra by the third grade or making sure they are able to multi-task on a computer by the time they are 12, we have created a generation of toadstools.

Rather than legislating a test to see how fat a kid is, why don't we fund programs that actually do something to make them more healthy.

Years ago, it was recognized that having children sit at their desks all day was not good and we had recess in elementary school and physical education class in middle and high school.

The last time I checked, you can't play volleyball, dodgeball or softball while holding a cell phone, iPod, Blackberry, Blueberry or whatever they call the next generation of electronic gizmo. And I have yet to see anyone break a sweat playing a video game.

This is the kind of idiot legalization that reminds me of fat people who will say: "I'd give anything in the world to lose weight, as long as I don't have to diet and exercise."

This is not to suggest that the health of our children is not something that should be addressed, and obesity can be a serious problem for some youngsters. It can be a serious problem for some oldsters, also.

But we are already asking schools to be everything from babysitters to social development centers, and when they get the chance to educate, some teachers go into shock.

There is fat in this idea, and it is not with the students but with some lawmakers, and it is not from their neck down.

Although some other states have passed similar legislation regarding weighing children, my grandmother always told me just because someone wants to be stupid and jump off a bridge doesn't mean you have to follow them.

We need to be focused on discipline in the classroom, making certain teachers are qualified, improving curriculum and simply doing a better job of educating youngsters.

At a time when SAT's and GPA's need to be at the top of the list, worrying about a youngster's BMI is just plain D-U-M.

Ric Latarski can be reached at ric.latarski@rockdalecitizen.com.