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Emily 28th August 2007 14:22

School, students, and misplaced priorities
The new school year is about to begin, bringing with it more appalling news about the deteriorating quality of education in North America.

According to a new report, SAT scores, which have been in free-fall for years, are now at an abysmal, all-time low, as noted here:

An excerpt:

American students graduating from high school this year scored a 13-year low in reading ability...

Reading scores on the SAT declined 1 point to 502 after a 5- point drop last year, the test's operator, the College Board, reported today. The decline in 2006 was the largest in three decades. Average math results fell 3 points to 515, and writing grades, 3 points to 494...

"numbers like this, which presumably paint a broader picture...seem to speak of a general decline.''

and here:

The bad news:

The Class of 2007 posted the lowest SAT averages in several years, according to scores released this morning. Scores from the second year of an expanded, three-section college-entrance test declined by double digits in Maryland and the District, by five points in Virginia and by seven points nationwide, compared with the previous graduating class.

These results are alarming, but what also makes them frustrating is that principals and teachers seem to be completely indifferent to this educational crisis, and instead, are exclusely obsessed with how much young girls weigh, and what they eat.

For heaven's sake, if the schools stopped being diet-pushers, and instead became knowledge-givers; if they stopped focussing on girls' waistlines, and instead started focussing on their minds; if they stopped measuring their weight, and started measuring their intelligence; then maybe the downward spiral would stop, and students would start getting a good education again.

Kaitlynn 28th August 2007 22:54

Re: School, students, and misplaced priorities
This really is terrible news. Not a day goes by when scare-mongering stories about nonexistent weight "epidemics" get churned out by the mass media, yet the falling SAT scores point to a real crisis, a real epidemic, impacting today's youth- but no one cares.

What kind of a society do we live in when schools try to bully young women into starving themselves, rather than encouraging students to develop their minds?

Why do educators think it's their job to make girls resent their naturally full figures, rather than giving students the education they need?

Teachers have the chance to enrich their students' lives forever, by introducing them to new ideas and information. Why would abandon this noble vocation, in favour of promoting senseless exercise-torture?

Are they trying to produce beasts of burden rather than independent thinkers?

Misplaced priorities is right.

I thought of this today, when the news was running about how sweet Caitlin Upton- the Miss Teen USA contestant- flubbed her answer to the question about why U.S. students are so bad at georgraphy. (The way the media browbeat her was unforgivable.) Her answer should have been, "It's because our schools think it's more important to have young women starving than learning."

Enough "gym" already. Let's put the students back in the classroom.

MelanieW 26th September 2007 13:59

Re: School, students, and misplaced priorities
It is also crucial for parents- mothers especially, since they have the most influence on young girls- to create a size-positive environment at home, especially to undo the damage that the school system and the media are doing to the body image of young women today.

An article I found online today echoes this point:

The writer describes the frightening case of a four-year-old who is already expressing a negative view of her body. She states that even if older generations of women have internalized a warped view of their figures, they have to avoid passing this on.

Some excerpts:

she already had started mimicking the body dissatisfaction that would be more common with the adults in her life - a mother, aunt or older sister...

Sadly, many of us are partly at fault. Our negative body image affects our younger sisters, nieces and daughters.

We need to be an example for our younger, more impressionable generation - because before you know it, they'll be echoing our negative sentiments...

In the meantime, I can only hope that four-year-old camper and her friends will come to understand what's more important at their age than weight obsession...
Parents must be careful to express only pro-plus sentiments in the company of their daughters, to break the thin-supremacist cycle once and for all.

M. Lopez 1st November 2007 14:47

Re: School, students, and misplaced priorities
Here's yet more distrurbing evidence of the misplaced priorities of schools today:

The opening headline:

One in 10 U.S. High Schools a “Dropout Factory”
October 30, 2007

Hundreds of American high schools are suffering from dropout rates of over 40 percent.

About 1,700 American high schools are “dropout factories,” according to data from the Department of Education. That’s 12 percent of U.S. secondary schools, more than one in ten. The data was analyzed by Johns Hopkins University and reported by the Associated Press.

There are many articles about this in the news. It's a genuinely shocking statistic.

This is at the same time that schools are sending home hate mail to parents of full-figured girls, actually telling them their daughters are supposedly "overweight."

How dare they? Clearly this statistic shows that the schools are miserably failing in their academic mission, and that they should be devoting 100% of their attention and efforts to trying to educate students, not ruining their body image and breeding a generation of slaves to the diet industry.

HSG 26th December 2007 23:15

Re: School, students, and misplaced priorities
Originally Posted by M. Lopez
This is at the same time that schools are sending home hate mail to parents of full-figured girls, actually telling them their daughters are supposedly "overweight."

...schools are miserably failing in their academic mission, and that they should be devoting 100% of their attention and efforts to trying to educate students, not ruining their body image and breeding a generation of slaves to the diet industry.

Very true. Without any hyperbole, such notices do constitute hate mail. They are nothing less than child abuse--institutionalized child abuse.

Although we live in an overly litigious society, this is one instance in which the legal system must intervene to put a stop to this vicious harassment of young girls. When the current epidemic of weight hysteria finally subsides, any parent of a girl who was given such a notice should sue the school, or the principal, or the teacher that sanctioned its distribution, for causing irreparable harm to the girl's psyche.

The mission of schools is to educate and enrich young minds, not to foster self-loathing. Considering the shoddy condition in which the academic world finds itself today, the last thing that it should be doing is allowing pointless distractions (like harassing girls about their natural appetites) to deflect it from its primary task.

Melanie's point is a crucial one: In the face of such abusive behaviour by schools, parents must do everything that they can to defend their daughters, to protect their vulnerable psyches from this brand of institutional bullying, and to endow them with positive messages instead.

The television personality Glenn Beck (host of a daily opinion program on CNN's Headline News) recently wrote a book about some of the problems facing the U.S. today, and included a chapter about this very topic--what parents can do to foster positive body image in their daughters, in the face of the thin-supremacist onslaught by the mass media (and, sadly, the school system).

You may click on the link below to see a (very) brief video clip of Glenn Beck's program, concerning this issue.

Stock photo of two young women not starving themselves (click to view larger):

Click to enlarge

- Click to view CNN video clip

Amy 28th December 2007 21:55

Re: School, students, and misplaced priorities
I too am appalled at the drop in SAT scores. As a plus-size teacher[...]I speak with my students on a daily basis about respect and acceptance...

Unfortunately, some parents do a good job of tearing down their children's self esteem. I have students that start the year trying to hide themselves. Once they realize that acceptance is required in my classroom, that I accept and love my plus-size self and that no one will bother them (under penalty of dealing with me,) they open up. I wish that all parents would encourage their children to accept themselves instead of planting the seeds of insecurity.

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