Loud-mouthed liberal feminist. Anarchist knitter. Tequila-drinking artsy-smartsy fat chick. Bluesy folk-rock singer-songwriter. Rebel with too many causes. Quirky eclectic pagan poet. Paradoxical intuitive smartass. Sarcastic brainiac insomniac. You know, for starters.


News flash: fat kids are stupid.

The remaining minutes of 2008 are slowly ticking past, much to my increasing delight. Frankly, I can't wait for this festering fucking pustule of a year to get the hell over with. Not that my life is all that bad on a cosmic scale, but this year has brought me mystery debilitating illness, romantic disappointment, and the passing on of a loved one....and not even the prospect of a new era in American politics can take the sting out of those major bummers.

Instead of ruminating on all that horseshit, though, I'm going to fire up my own rage-driven internal combustion engine, and rant a bit. This morning's news even provided a handy source of fuel!
Recent results from an international math and science test show United States students are performing near the middle of the pack compared to other countries, while their levels of obesity continue to climb.

Wow. Did you know that fat kids were dumb? Clearly there could be no other possible explanation for why American kids are falling behind the rest of the world academically! (Also, was there any checking on how fat the non-American kids were, for comparison's sake? Um, no.)
The California Department of Education (CDE) looked for a correlation between fitness scores and test scores. They found that kids who were deemed fit (by a standard test of aerobic capacity, BMI, abdominal strength, trunk strength, upper body strength and overall flexibility) scored twice as well on academic tests as those that were unfit. In the second year of the study, socio-economic status was taken into account, to possibly eliminate that variable as an explanation. As expected, those in the upper-income brackets scored better overall on the academic tests, but within the lower-income set of students, the same results were observed - kids who were more fit performed better academically.

So, kudos to these guys for actually considering socio-economic status as a valid factor (though I wonder if they also noticed a skewing of higher BMIs towards the lower-income bracket, hmmm?). However, I wonder if they considered any other factors that might come into play. Like, say, the impact of fat bias on academic performance; I wonder if there's a difference in the effort made to teach fat kids, a difference in individual attention, that sort of thing. Certainly I imagine that bullying and social stigma have an affect on fat kids' ability to focus on getting an education.

I was a smartypants fat girl in school (poor, too, even!), but I'm well aware that my experience was not the norm - since I didn't get bullied or teased much (I guess 'cause I look so mean?). I wonder, if other fat kids didn't have to deal with the constant derision of their peers (not to mention, I imagine, at least some of their teachers, too)...would they get a better education?

Another factor to consider? I wonder how many of the fat kids in these studies were on diets. I imagine plenty of 4th and 8th graders have already been put on diets by their parents or schools...not to say anything of the ones who've already started down the road of internalized fat hate and disordered eating patterns. I know many people my age were already engaging in diet culture at 12 or 13, so it wouldn't surprise me; I imagine that dieting wouldn't make for optimal test scores, either.

Aside from all that, though, the salient part of the quote above is the word "correlation." Say it with me now: correlation does not equal causation. Now, maybe some of you are asking, "So what?" Here's the bit that does not compute:
So, just send the kids on a fast jog and they will ace all of their tests? Not quite.

"The exercise itself doesn't make you smarter, but it puts the brain of the learners in the optimal position for them to learn," Ratey said. "There's no way to say for sure that improves learning capacity for kids, but it certainly seems to correlate to that."

The part that makes me wish I had a mustache to chew is the action that will inevitably be taken based on studies and articles like this: (more) fat kids will be put on diets, likely mandated by school policies and fear tactics; the new administration in DC could revamp "No Child Left Behind" to add fitness requirements and other anti-fat programs; and fat kids will continue to be unfairly stigmatized as stupid, lazy, and overindulgent. All of that stuff could happen, when the truth is right there in that article - "exercise doesn't make you smarter" and "seems to correlate." This is weasel speak, folks: they don't actually KNOW what's going on here.

Yet again, a complex situation will be reduced to a simple axium, and used to demonize and punish fat people. Meanwhile, in Taiwan, pandas are losing weight because of a lack of exercise. What? Do the laws of thermodynamics not apply to pandas??

Apparently hell has frozen over.

No comments: