Day Schools Judging Kids Body-Mass Index Get An ‘F’ For Fat

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The Center for Consumer Freedom reports that “Schools across America are increasingly taking it upon themselves to tell parents their children are obese, by mandating ‘report cards’ that report students’ Body-Mass Index (BMI), a crude measure of height and weight.” Now the Center for Consumer Freedom is a pro-business lobby, so consider the source.

Nonetheless, I imagine that parents have pretty good reasons to be unsettled by this development.

Here’s one mother that pretty upset by a BMI “report card”:

“My daughter has always been solid as a rock. She’s all muscle and hardly ever stops moving. She’s not skinny, but she’s also not even an ounce overweight … The letter goes on to say, in bold type, that ‘only a physician can accurately determine whether an individual is underweight, overweight or obese.’ Damn straight. Then why are you sending me this scary letter with clearly erroneous information? What’s the point of that? “

It’s certainly true that unless the school is subjecting your kid to Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry tests, determining body fat percentage is generally a fairly crude procedure involving a simple caliper test that often doesn’t take into account different body types and a host of other mitigating factors. And given the problems of social stigma among children, it’s very possible “grading” kids based on how (allegedly) fat they are is a recipe for disaster.

Clearly, childhood obesity is a major problem. No one disputes that. But can’t we engage parents and kids in healthy fitness and nutrition habits without scarlet “F” for fat on their report cards? As a rule, I think the importance of building children’s self-esteem is greatly exaggerated by modern-day educators. However, being comfortable with one’s appearance may be one of the few areas where it’s vital. We don’t want to push kids too hard to spell correctly or learn multiplication tables for fear of hurting their feelings, but it’s ok to grade kids based on body fat percentage? What’s going on here?