Food for thought

Less-than-humble Liam isn't willing to acknowledge the significance of the recent Philadelphia healthy-eating study. He goes so far as to say that it "has nothing to do with education; it's about whether kids who eat healthful foods for several hours a day will be healthier. Of course they will!"

Of course they will? The last several decades of education research are littered with examples of promising initiatives that take "several hours a day" and don't get any results. In fact, there's a serious debate among reformers and apologists about whether it's fair to expect schools to have any impact on children's well-being--academic or otherwise--since the kiddies spend most of their days outside of school and since home factors play such a large role in determining children's fate. (Even the original Education Gadfly, Checker Finn, once estimated that children only spend nine percent of their lives in schools from age zero to eighteen.)

So here you have an initiative whereby schools serve children healthier lunches, keep them from accessing junk food and sugary drinks for seven hours a day, and teach them the basics about balanced eating. The schools have no direct control over anything else--the junk the kids might eat for breakfast, the junk they might eat for dinner, the junk they might eat for snacks, their lethargic after-school lifestyles. You might say the schools have even less control over kids' diet and exercise than over their academic development. And yet this study finds that the intervention worked to measurably decrease the incidence of kids getting fat.

This little study is big news, Liam, no matter how you slice it. And it shows that schools can have a big impact on kids' lives. If we can make their butts smaller, surely we can make their brains bigger.

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