Forget Video Games, Why Aren't Politicians Complaining About Chess?

from the sedentary-occupations! dept

President Obama is the latest in a rather long line of politicians to start calling out video games as being something that is bad for kids and should be taken away from them, as encouragement to go outside and play:
The second step that we can all agree on is to invest more in preventive care so that we can avoid illness and disease in the first place. That starts with each of us taking more responsibility for our health and the health of our children. It means quitting smoking, going in for that mammogram or colon cancer screening. It means going for a run or hitting the gym, and raising our children to step away from the video games and spend more time playing outside.
Of course, there's been very little evidence that playing video games alone somehow leads kids to be less active or to play less outside, but it may also be worth putting this into a historical context. Tom sends in a look back at some old quotes from Scientific American, where the last one on the page, written in July of 1859 -- yes 150 years ago -- sounds quite similar to Obama's comments on video games, but is in reference to that pernicious child-obesity-causing monstrosity we call "chess":
"A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread all over the country, and numerous clubs for practicing this game have been formed in cities and villages. Why should we regret this? It may be asked. We answer, chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body. Chess has acquired a high reputation as being a means to discipline the mind, but persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises--not this sort of mental gladiatorship."
You heard them! No more chess playing, you kids!


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Joseph Durnal, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 9:24am

    You know you know one

    Everybody knows or knew the video game kid that never goes outside, etc. But I wouldn't call it a big problem. I regularly lock the Wii in my closet for one reason or another, and sometimes the reason is that they've just been playing it too much. The kids freak out for 15 minutes and something amazing happens, they forget about it and go play outside. Sometimes, they don't ask about the Wii for weeks and they do other things. It is called parenting, if more people did it, the President of the United States wouldn't have to tell us to.

     

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  2.  
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    Isaac Ludwig, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 9:44am

    hmm, i take it that online chess...

    is quite the double-tragedy?

    Or...chess on Xbox live rather?
    This is a funny post. I enjoyed the efforts
    of the person who dug that up.

     

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    Raquel, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 9:46am

    Re: You know you know one

    I couldn't agree more!! Kids need parents, not a government substitution for one!

     

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    No Imagination (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 9:51am

    I love this analogy/link!

     

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    Darwin, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 9:55am

    Evolution in progress

    If it takes the President to tell parents how to parent, don't bother and let evolution do it's thing. Who would mate with a fat, 30 something, living with their parents? Nature will take care of the rest.

     

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    Jane Doe, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 9:56am

    Re: You know you know one

    My Cuban father, may he rest in peace, would take our Atari 2600 joysticks and lock them in the trunk of his car.

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:00am

    Throughout history old people have complained about whatever "thing" young people are doing. Plato complained about kids reading. Parents in the 20s complained about jazz music. Parents in the 50s complained about rock & roll. Parents complained about hair length (both too long and too sort), comic books, tree forts, toys, and nearly everything else they have did or do.

    Every generation of parents complains and this will never stop. For this generation it's video games. For the next generation it'll be something else.

     

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    monkyyy, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:00am

    its true that video games take away form time kids would send outside but so does school, chores, and sleeping at "reasonable" times allong with everything that isnt outside

    why do adults assume everything they didnt have/do is harmful
    videos games can be play to much but theres people who over react to the point its part of obamas popularity

     

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    VanCardboardbox, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:03am

    Is the authour of the summary suggesting that if we find the 150 year old SA expert ridiculous then we should likewise find it ridiculous when anyone suggests that playing video games might not be good for kids?

    Allow me make this apparently controversial assertion: its not good for kids to sit inside and not move for hours at a time, unless they are asleep at night. Be it chess, video games, tv shows, movies, masturbating, eating cheetos, or staring at the wall. Kids benefit from physical activity and can benefit their whole lives if they are instilled with a love of being active from a young age.

    Personally, if my kid is sitting in place for a couple of hours I'd much rather that he read a book than spend the time gaming. As always, however, moderation in all things is the key.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:08am

    Focus problem

    Ok, first of all, O-dawg is right that kids today need to be more athletic. I would just simply focus more on insisting that my kids play a sport, jog for an hour, or engage in outside excersize rather than focus on taking other fun things away.

    I'm certainly not a kid, but my typical routine during the week is:

    1. work 8-5
    2. 3-5 mile run from 5:30p - 7p
    3. lift weights in home gym for an hour 3 days a week
    4. 9-10p play vid games
    5. 10p fall asleep w/the tv on

    My social time is during the weekend, otherwise I'm too busy between work, excersizing, and relaxing. I don't have to cut out my hour of daily video games to stay fit. Neither do kids, who tend to have more free time than adults anyway.

     

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    BullJustin (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:18am

    Re: Evolution in progress

    Who would mate with a fat, 30 something, living with their parents?
    Have you ever been to Walmart? You'd be amazed

     

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    Tony, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:19am

    Agree

    I agree with this. Obama isn't saying take away games form kids. He is saying that kids need more physical activity because today's youth are in poor health.

    I normally agree with TechDirt's edginess but I don't get what angle is being played here...

     

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    Reverse, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:23am

    Turn this around

    What about the games that promote the actual act... Guitar hero / Rock Band are driving up interest to play the actual intruments.
    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2009/05/rhythm-games-can-drive-interest-into-real-in struments.ars

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:34am

    "...chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body. Chess has acquired a high reputation as being a means to discipline the mind, but persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises--not this sort of mental gladiatorship."

    This person is just upset because he sucks at chess, he sucks at checkers, he sucks at connect four, and he sucks at anything that involves thinking. He is too undisciplined to improve so he just starts criticizing everything that he sucks at.

     

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    That Guy, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re: You know you know one

    My American mother would not allow game consoles in the house and took the cable box with her to work during the summer.

     

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    The Buzz Saw (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:46am

    wrong focus

    The problem with this whole situation is that the focus is placed too heavily on telling kids to NOT do something. It is much more effective to find things for kids to actually do instead. If you tell a child to just "stop playing games", he/she will just mope around, whine, and find a way to get back to playing. Part of it is immaturity, but part of it is the mere fact that the parent offered nothing to fill the void.

    Legislation banning any amount of gaming will only anger a lot of people. It will not magically send kids outside.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:48am

    Video games prepare kids for the real world, where you'll spend upwards of eight hours a day staring blankly at a computer screen in the hopes of getting a few words of congradulations and the privledge of doing more of the same but with higher stress.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:54am

    Re:

    Allow me make this apparently controversial assertion: its not good for adults to sit inside and not move for hours at a time, unless they are asleep at night. Be it data entry, personel paperwork, answering business mail, or staring at the wall. Adults benefit from physical activity and can benefit their whole lives if they are instilled with a love of being active from a young age.

    I'd much rather that he read a book than spend the time gaming.

    Why? if being sedentary is bad, what difference does it make -- that's the point of your whole previous paragraph. I think what you mean to criticize is the content involved, and i propose that a cruddy book is worse for kids than a compelling and well-crafted video game.

     

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  19.  
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    brent (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:55am

    whats wrong with video games? i play them with my dad and i also have a 3 year old who i look forward to sharing video game time with him as well.

     

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  20.  
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    Mental Gladiator, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 10:58am

    This, is, CHESS! I mean, SPARTA!

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 11:07am

    Re: You know you know one

    NO, it is not possible for us to parent our own children. We need Papa Obama to help us.

    Remember, a liberal government believes that we are not able to help ourselves so THEY need to help us (whether we want it or not).

    Personally, if they really want to go down this path, why don't we get rid of that obesity causing problem known as SCHOOL. Force kids to sit at a desk for 6 hours a day and eat fatty food for lunch (because that's what our liberal schools provide them now)?

    In fact, I believe factory jobs where you are physically active all day long would be the best option for our children. LONG LIVE THE PROLETARIAT!!!

    Remember: to each according to need, from each according to ability!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 11:08am

    Re:

    if it's not active, you're masturbating wrong

     

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  23.  
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    Wayne, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 11:08am

    Wow what a joke

    Ok I'm a self admitted gamer. Governments need to get things straight. I played games alot when there is one i'm into. But I also know to exercise and during the summer i'm out in the sun alot. My kids both a girl and boy are the same. Sounds like people just looking to place blame so they look like they are doing something. Just like rock and roll in the 50's was evil. Parents and Government always looking to blame things other then themselves. If there is someone to blame try all the fast food that they keep telling is good and healthy when we know it's not.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 11:18am

    Re:

    Yes, way to short circuit your own argument here.

    What these arguments seem to keep going to is "Kids should be spending their time wisely!" We can all agree that spending an entire day sitting in the same position is bad for you. Somehow making a distinction from one form of entertainment from another is ridiculous. You can find merits and detriments is most general forms of entertainment. Books expand your imagination, chess improves pattern recognition, video games typically improve hand eye coordination. ect, the list can go on.

    If you are a parent leaving your kid to sit still for several hours obviously you don't care about your kid or you are taking the day off and sitting down for hours on end also and don't really care about any of this.

     

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    Steven (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 11:22am

    Re: Agree

    As a parent of two boys, living on a street with more than a dozen kids, I just don't see any evidence that "today's youth are in poor health". citation?

    Seriously people grow up and get some perspective. My older son loves to play games (has a Wii, Xbox, DS, PC), but he's also in martial arts, plays baseball, did soccer for a couple years, rides a dirt bike...

    My youngest learned all his basic colors through video games (as well as picked up decent mouse abilities) at age 2 (gcompris). Now he's getting really good at the train memory game in gcompris, partially because he loves trains. He's 3 now by the way.

    Video games are not in any way bad. Anything pushed to excess is bad. If you have kids, be a freakin parent.

     

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  26.  
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    Fiercedeity (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 11:26am

    Re:

    lol i think this guy lived and died before connect 4

     

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  27.  
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    M.J., Jun 30th, 2009 @ 11:27am

    Personal responsibility...

    "...each of us taking more responsibility for our health ..."

    So, his idea of becoming more personally responsible is to give up that power and listen to what the government wants you to do?

    Um.... RIIIGHT.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 11:29am

    Re: Re: You know you know one

    "NO, it is not possible for us to parent our own children. We need Papa Obama to help us."

    Nice distinction, considering Bush appointed that retard Jack Thompson to head up the ESRB.

    http://www.dailygaming.net/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=243

    "Force kids to sit at a desk for 6 hours a day and eat fatty food for lunch (because that's what our liberal schools provide them now)?"

    ...huh? Maybe your crazy ass liberal school was different than mine, but I didn't sit behind a desk fr 6 hrs. a day. I definitely remember P.E., plus in most of my classes we certainly moved around a decent amount, probably more than I do at my day job, actually. Plus where does this mentality that ALL schools are liberal? Does that include those in the deep rural south? Or private schools? Or Catholic schools? My suburban high school definitely WASN'T liberal.

    "LONG LIVE THE PROLETARIAT!!!"

    Better them than the bourgeoisie...

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 11:31am

    Re: wrong focus

    This is why we need legislation mandating competative sports.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 11:39am

    Re: Personal responsibility...

    "So, his idea of becoming more personally responsible is to give up that power and listen to what the government wants you to do?"

    Interesting semantic argument: can one take direction on being independent from a dependent source.

    If a counselor tells a drug addict that only HE can choose to quit drugs, and then he does, is it all for nought because the counselor suggested it?

    If a person $25k in debt realizes she needs to take control of her finances, and so enrolls the help of a debt counselor who manages her money for her, has she taken no responsibility because someone else has accepted control from her?

    Or maybe O-Dawg is right and you republitards just can't give him an ounce of credit on the rare occasion when he says something that's ok, waddya think.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 11:39am

    Yet another Obamination...

     

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    Valkor, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 11:49am

    Re: Personal responsibility...

    All we need to do is listen to the government to tell us every worthwhile thing to do. Obama has already told us to cover our mouths when we cough and wash our hands to avoid the Swine Flu. Clearly, he has a mandate to tell us everything our moms didn't.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 11:55am

    Re: Evolution in progress

    another fat 30 something who is also living with their parents

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:04pm

    Re: Re: Evolution in progress

    agreed

     

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    minijedimaster (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Re:

    LOL, I was thinking the same thing.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:08pm

    Re:

    That was 300. You should have asked us if we were not entertained.

     

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    minijedimaster (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Re: wrong focus

    Um, NO?

     

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    Andrew Ly, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:40pm

    Re: You know you know one

    Completely agreed. Its those parents that let their kids play for hours after school and does not setup rules or organize activities for them when they're young to foster joining sports activities. I buy my kid a scooter and he has hours of fun on it.

     

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    Cixelsid (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:40pm

    People who don't know, like to pass judgement.

    Reading the comments its quite obvious that the lazy fatass gamer is a stereotype propagated by people who haven't really experienced gaming for themselves. They're confused by it and probably intimidated by it as well. Myself, I've been boxing and doing Muay Thai for the past 8 years, I work 9 to 6, train 7 to 9 and thereafter play whatever I've got on my gaming rig (at the moment its Wolverine: Origins). Frankly I don't believe anyone should spend more than 2 hours a day training, more than that is unhealthy. Your kid doesn't need much more than that either. In fact, I'd rather have my kid spend a few hours on a console enhancing his multitasking capabilities rather than aimlessly sauntering outside.

    And I reckon if Obama had spent a little bit of time on a Wii he'd have learnt to bowl straight.

     

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    minijedimaster (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Re: Personal responsibility...

    Somehow I don't think this is a "rebulitards" vs "democrackheads" issue. I think its more of a keep the government out of my life issue, no matter who is running it.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Re: Evolution in progress

    Well Id say another fat 30 something... after having been to walmart

     

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  42.  
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    Colin, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 12:51pm

    "So, his idea of becoming more personally responsible is to give up that power and listen to what the government wants you to do?"

    As I read it, it is good advice.
    "That starts with each of us taking more responsibility..."
    Where does it say the government/Obama mandates it?
    What part of taking more personal responsibility don't you understand?

    Next time you are at a shopping mall or large public gathering take a look around and tell me how many of the people you see could use a bit of commonsense health advice.

     

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  43.  
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    Bradley Stewart, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 1:20pm

    No Politicians Don't Think That We Just Fell

    off a Turnup truck. They think we are too dumb to climb on one to fall off in the first place. Sure we are over weight and lazy. Were Americans. Were supposed to be out of shape and lazy. Sure we smoke, eat, and drink too much. Were Americans. Were supposed to. Its part of our National Character. Hey I spend 95% of my television viewing time watching C-Span 1,2, and 3. I see these folks all the time. I don't see many of these folks looking like profesional athletes with a 7% body fat composition. Was that a Lunar Eclypse, or were you just standing in front of the Sun? Was that a 9.4 Earthquake or did you just fall off your chair? Well you get the idea. Lets just stop blaming our own bad habits on things that have little or no relation to them or no matter how much Politicians want us to change our habits like playing video games we won't stop.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Personal responsibility...

    Fine, then don't single out a democrat, just say government. I'd be on board with that. I'm not for either party.

    It just burns my ass listening to "Republicans" tell me all about limited government and fiscal responsibility given the recent track record.

     

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  45.  
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    Adept-Slacker, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Re: wrong focus

    Force kids to play competitive sports? What about us super-uncoordinated nerds!? Many of us think competitive sports are akin to torture. That's not to say I don't get exercise or am in bad shape; I am very into bicycling (pretty hard to screw up, I guess) and have done up to a 60-mile route in one day (it was for a bike tour).

    Mandate exercise maybe, but not competitive sports.

     

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    azuravian, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 2:00pm

    Re:

    @Vancardboardbox

    You had me agreeing with everything, until the last line. Study after study show that videogames stimulate the same parts of the brain as reading, while also increasing fine motor skills. So while gaming is not a good substitute for physical activity (much like tv and eating cheetos as you stated), neither is reading and it shouldn't be elevated as such.

     

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    Lucretious, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 2:23pm

    I'm a hardcore gamer and former writer in the industry so I've no misconceptions about the effect of games (or lack thereof).

    Having said that I beleive The President wasn't going down the same vid game bashing road that many of his contemporaries have been doing of late. I think its entirely reasonable for kids to be encouraged to get split up their vid game times by going outside for some excercise and/or socialize etc.

     

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  48.  
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    Fushta, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 3:37pm

    PE & Recess Being Cut More

    DH. While it's true that when we were kids, PE and recess were the best parts of the school day.

    Unfortunately, recess and PE are being cut in favor of having more time for preparing for standardized testing and budget cuts. This isn't a good sign. While parents do have control over how much their child plays video games, they don't have a lot of say in how much recess and PE time they get at school.

    If the 'bama 'ministration wants to curb obesity in children, then they should require standardized/dedicated class time for recess and PE.

    Remember, "no child left behind" unless they are fat, then they will be...

     

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    Cixelsid (profile), Jun 30th, 2009 @ 3:49pm

    Re: No Politicians Don't Think That We Just Fell

    Dude, I love this comment.

     

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    Fred, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 6:44pm

    Dear Mr Obama,

    While I understand that you really meant to tell your population to exercise and start being more proactive (i.e. preventive) about heir health, do you realize that you could send appropriate message by regulating the food industry? Do you realize that only in the USA can we buy 80% "lean" beef? Do you realize than it takes 8 lb of grains to get 1 lb of this beef? And that this 1 lb of meat is often serve as one meal? That this 8 lbs of grain could feed 4 humans instead of only 1? That more and more time, effort and money are spent in quality controls for problems (mainly E. coli.) invented buy our production chain

     

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  51.  
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    Fred, Jun 30th, 2009 @ 6:44pm

    Dear Mr Obama,

    While I understand that you really meant to tell your population to exercise and start being more proactive (i.e. preventive) about heir health, do you realize that you could send appropriate message by regulating the food industry? Do you realize that only in the USA can we buy 80% "lean" beef? Do you realize than it takes 8 lb of grains to get 1 lb of this beef? And that this 1 lb of meat is often serve as one meal? That this 8 lbs of grain could feed 4 humans instead of only 1? That more and more time, effort and money are spent in quality controls for problems (mainly E. coli.) invented buy our production chain

     

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  52.  
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    Ilfar, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 8:12am

    Gaming and kids

    I quite happily sat there for a few hours some days teaching my ten year old daughter how to play Supreme Commander, we even managed to get her mother involved! And she adored playing Club Penguin when she was allowed.

    But Monday was go to the pool after school day, Tuesday was go to the park if it's dry day, etc, etc... Until they hit the teenage years (when any attempt to regulate them be it from a parent or the government just isn't going to work, face it :P) I've yet to see a child who didn't prefer spending time with their parents to playing on the computer.

     

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  53.  
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    SRJCollege@gmail.com, Jul 1st, 2009 @ 9:13am

    Re: Evolution in progress

    Who would mate with a fat, 30 something, living with their parents?

    You tell us ;-)

     

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    GoodStudent, Jul 30th, 2009 @ 11:50pm

    Six hours a day at school?!?! I feel cheated... when I was in school we had 8 hour days (with 30 minutes of PE, of course). Sometimes we had recess, if the teacher felt like it (they never did). Lunch was always steak fingers and mashed potatoes, with milk and some sort of unidentifiable vegetable or bean (and as of 2 years ago when I chanced to eat lunch in my old elementary again, it was still the same). Sometimes we had hot dogs. For some reason, the meat had a green tint. High school, though, introduced the snack bar. Pizza, hamburgers, and more pizza. Also, giant pretzels. So, yes, school was probably the healthiest thing I ever did. Compared to that, an hour or two of video games after school (after I did the hours of homework they would assign to me in elementary, naturally) is like eating nothing but cheetos. Those video games must have been what made me the unhealthy person I am today. Why didn't I see that before?!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    identicon
    hi, Mar 25th, 2010 @ 12:17pm

    sup

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    Not your son, Oct 27th, 2011 @ 8:25am

    Re: You know you know one

    man... if you were my dad i would have grown up to be a very different person.. and im a rather wealthy IP lawyer... so thanks for not being my dad =D

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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