My local paper reports on a major study of a three-year campaign at 42 schools around the country in which “[m]iddle school students targeted with an intensive effort to reduce obesity did no better at losing weight than their peers in schools without special programs.”
Researchers were stunned, suggesting an unexamined assumption that lots of focused education is sufficient to create big behavioral changes. Looks like another nail in the coffin of the teachers-cause-transformation hypothesis.
A local principal is quoted muddying the waters: “It’s like a lot of things in education…. We can control a lot of what they do at school, but if they go home and they’re sedentary, they eat fried foods, that can sabotage the data.” I like the idea that life variables other than school ‘sabotage the data’, but the point is a critical one: despite its prominence in our hopes and dreams, school is just not the salient influence in many kids’ lives.
UPDATE: The very next day my local paper reports that our state is #10 on the national fatty list. But wait! “Gloomy numbers aside, the report’s authors noted signs of progress. Many states, including North Carolina, are starting programs in schools, churches and communities that promote exercise and healthy diets.” This is progress? Apparently they do not read their own newspaper. Or they do, yet it teaches them nothing.
On the same page is a local-interest article gushing about the delicious deep-fried squash at the Legislative Cafeteria. Nothing like it to sabotage the data.
UPDATE: While I’m thinking about it I want to belatedly link this to Daniel Lende’s much more substantive work over at Neuroanthropology. Find a gateway article with great links here.