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What Matters Most for America - Part 2 of 5: Fatness and Education

Let’s begin with the old expression “fat, dumb, and happy.”

As a nation, we are fat.  We lead the world in obesity - 30% of us are obese and 40% of us are overweight.  Obese people get sick more often driving up the need for health care services.  What’s worse, obesity is plaguing our young people.  How will these people take care of the rising number of old people?  Clearly, a large segment of the population follows a lifestyle that is unhealthy.  We have overindustrialized our food processing.  We have put too much “fast food” on every corner.  We have “upsized” our serving sizes and our waistlines.  We are telling ourselves that being overweight is normal.  Are we nuts? 

We have created a culture of “death by convenience.”  How ironic is it that everyday life has become less physically demanding to the point that we must drive to a gym to burn calories by walking on a treadmill?  Physical activity inherent in daily living has gone down while emotional stress has gone up.  The 30% of us who have a normal weight are able to live a more “fat free” lifestyle so it can be done.  While fatness is a national problem, it can only be solved by individual resolve and action.  The war on fat must be fought on the home front:  in the grocery store, in the kitchen, on the playground, and by exercising in the neighborhood or gym.

The dumbing down of America has been going on for some time.  Part of this is illustrated in how we have managed to simplify tasks to make it easier for less-educated people to do jobs (e.g., cash registers now calculate change).  The test scores of our students compared to other countries have been sliding downward.  We fall in the mid range for industrialized nations.  An educated populace is a cornerstone of both democracy and global competitiveness.  A nation with creeping ignorance falls prey to demagogues and its internal politics veer off track.  A nation with creeping ignorance is unable to do the high-tech, high-skilled jobs that provide high wages.  The result is an impoverished underclass who live in an affluent society while they compete against workers earning third-world wages.  Education is an enabler of success and upward economic mobility and we are struggling to make it work for us in the modern age.

Education in America has long been a local matter.  Local school boards make decisions about school financing and administration.  Judging school performance was often a matter of making comparisons within the county, or maybe the state.  Now there are national standards.  Why?  Because educational performance is a key to national strength.  It’s no longer good enough to be better than the state next door.  We must be better than every country on earth. 

Every child is unique and we need a system that identifies that uniqueness and is tailored to it.  We need the fortitude and the mechanisms that advance a child when he or she has mastered material, not when he is another year older.  We need two parent homes where the parents read to their kids instead of single parents working second jobs to make ends meet.  We need every household to instill the educational work ethic that produces scholarship, not mere attendance.  Schools cannot do what parents will not do.  Education begins at home.  We need a national effort to drive that point home and facilitate its happening.

We need to afford education the priority and funding that we do our defense budget, because in the 21st century, a skilled and intelligent population will be our ultimate defense.  If that sounds far fetched, it’s not.  The military has already had to compromise its physical and educational  selection standards because of the decline in both among young people.  Without skilled labor to support skilled jobs and higher pay, our economy will falter.  A failing economy means weaker tax revenues which means pressure on all forms of government spending, including the military.  A country whose citizenry is physically and educationally weak is militarily weak as well.

Are we happy about this?  I hope not, but we seem to be almost stupified into accepting it as the status quo.  At some point, the healthy and educated people are going to get tired of paying for the social benefits of the uneducated, underemployed, overweight, sickly people.  We may ultimately see a societal split between the responsible have’s and the irresponsible have not’s.  The have’s will want the have not’s to shape up and act responsibly.  The have not’s will want the nicer homes and better incomes of the have’s and will seek to redistribute that wealth to themselves through government social programs.  A nation does not lift itself up by pulling down those at the top.

This post first appeared on A Centered View Of Our Times, please read the originial post: here

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What Matters Most for America - Part 2 of 5: Fatness and Education


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