Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No More Toy for Happy Meal! Why Don’t You Pay for Phys Ed Instead?

On April 27, Santa Clara County in California approved the nation’s first ordinance that would:

Prevent restaurants from using toys to lure kids to meals high in fat, sugar and calories. The law prohibits restaurants in unincorporated parts of the county from giving away goodies unless the meals meet certain nutritional guidelines. More and more in recent years, fast-food critics say restaurants have encouraged families to make unhealthy choices by offering Iron Man Cyclone Spinning Robot Drones and Barbie Mermaid dolls with their kids' meals.

Link. The county supervisors state that they hope their vote and its message “will put the county at the forefront of the fight against childhood obesity.” The board had previously voted in 2008 to require menu-labeling for fast-food restaurants, similar to laws in San Francisco and New York City, and California followed suit in 2009.

Reportedly, more then 9 million children between the ages 6 and 19 are overweight and in the last 30 years the percentage of overweight 6 to 11 year olds has risen from 4% to 17%. Link. There has been a push across the nation to fight childhood obesity by attacking fast-food menus, soda, and snacks.

But here’s a novel idea: why don’t cities and states fight childhood obesity by increasing funding and requirements for physical education? Getting kids more active is the key to a healthier lifestyle. It is no surprise that childhood obesity has increased as cities and states cutback on physical education programs. This problem was known at least as early as 2004. Only 6% of schools nationally provide the recommended daily gym class to all students. Link.

Georgia eliminated the legal mandate for physical education and recess in schools in 2000 while Florida and New Mexico allow marching band as a substitute for physical education. Arkansas decided that 9th graders are no longer requited to gym. Link. Not surprisingly, Georgia, Arkansas, and New Mexico are in the highest percentile of childhood overweight & obesity rates, while Florida is in the second highest percentile. Link.

These states have left it up to local school districts to decide how much exercise students should get. These school districts, however, are under the strain of No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) academic requirements and are channeling resources to meet NCLB requirements. Link. A study has shown that the current phys ed requirements do not promote exercise or fight obesity. Link. That’s little surprise because having a child—or adult—exercise no more than 1 day a week for a couple of minutes will do nothing for overall health.

Back to California and Santa Clara County. In California, 30% of children are overweight or obese. California requires 3 hours and 20 minutes of physical education every 10 days for students 1st through 6th grades, but half the schools in the state have failed to meet this minimum requirement. Link.

You want to fight childhood obesity? Increase phys ed requirements and funding and make sure schools are meeting these requirements. The alternative is what we have now and taking Happy Meal toys away will do nothing but have unhappy, overweight children.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Senseless Census

I completed the 2010 Census form and mailed it back recently. This was the second time I’ve done one. Last time I was still in my parents’ house and completed the form for them, but this time I own my own home and reported the information for my wife, son and I.

Section 9 of the Census form for what “race” am I presented a conundrum. I’m Puerto Rican and like I did on the 2000 form I checked “some other race” and wrote Latino. What troubled me was the list of races on the form:

The form lists Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese as separate races which is the height of absurdity. Yet Latinos, the largest minority group in the United States are not listed as it’s own race. The argument may be concerning the diversity amongst Latino, but that argument puts a stake in the heart of the claim that Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese are a separate race.

In any event, there is no such thing as a homogeneous racial group in the United States. Some try to argue it, holding onto the antiquated notion of race based on the now scorned classifications of Caucasian, Negroid, and Mongoliod. Latinos are historical rather than present-day mestizos, a mixture. Actually, the term mestizo means mongrel which is certainly a derogatory term but it only had meaning when the Conquistadors conquered South and Central America and the islands of the Caribbean five centuries ago. From that time, the Spaniards integrated with the indigenous population (which they nearly exterminated) and the African slaves that were brought with them. There were more mixing of Spaniards with African slaves in the Caribbean than there was in Central and South America, where there was a higher rate of mixing with the indigenous population. The first few generation of mixtures were derogatorily referred to as mestizos, but then a strange thing happened: soon there was so much mixing that mestizos became the overwhelming majority throughout the Spanish colonies. The term was no longer derogatory since it referred to the people in power. Culturally, they followed Spanish ways but racially they had become their own distinct group which they differentiated from the Spanish who still traveled to the region and the Africans still brought over on slave ships.

Look at it this way. President Obama listed himself as African-American on the Census but his mother is white. If you believe that Spaniards are “white”, then Latinos haven’t had white blood in them since before British set foot on the lands to the north which eventually became the United States. Yet some how till this day Latinos are not recognized as a race on the Census form.

Yes, the form actually has its own section for Latinos (section 8) where you can list whether you are Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, etc., but is that really necessary? There is no other section for Ethnic groups such as Italian, German, Irish, etc. And Asian Indians and Middle Eastern people are included in “Other Asian” in the race section. So Latinos remain on the outskirts, relegated to their own placating section because of antiquated notions of race and ethnicity.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


To all those who celebrate Easter, may you all have a Happy Easter filled with love and joy.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday, the solemnest day in the Christian calendar, which commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. The traditional year for the date of Jesus’ crucifixion is 33 CE (Common Era, aka AD), but this is based on the false premise that Jesus was born in year 1 CE and died at the age of 33.

The actual date for Jesus’ crucifixion is Friday, April 5 in the year 30 CE. Matching the Gospel accounts with the Hebrew and modern-day calendars, the year 30 CE is the sole viable choice because that was only year in Jesus’ late adult life where Friday was the end of the first day of Passover (which began Thursday evening). According to Scripture, Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew Calendar. Passover in the year 30 CE was on the night of April 4 (Nisan 15, 3790) and the Last Supper was a Passover Seder.

Knowing the precise date is easier than knowing where the term Good came from. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Some say it is from ‘God’s Friday’ (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not specially English.”