Conservatives: What Happened to Personal Responsibility?

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times highlighted the woeful state of children’s health and fitness: about 1 in 3 California students passed the physical fitness test in 2010.

Children's fitnessSpecifically, 28.7% of students in grade five, 34.6% in grade seven, and 38.5% in grade nine were rated as “fit,” or to use accountability parlance, “proficient.” Given the fact that obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years and that only 25% of boys and 15% of girls were found to have adequate exercise, according to Reuters, this is certainly no surprise. The American Heart Association recommends children get at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.

So where are the accountability hawks on this issue? If children are not deemed fit, should the physical education teachers be blamed, just as teachers are now liable for students’ academic progress? How about the school?

Let’s take this parallel further. If all schools had standardized physical fitness tests every year starting in 3rd grade, how much is the PE teacher responsible? If children consistently failed, would paying teachers more based on physical fitness performances be any more effective? If the school neglected to reach adequate yearly progress, would we send children to other private schools and shut down failing schools?

Sounds like a bit much, considering children spend considerably more time outside of school eating and doing physical activities. I imagine most conservatives would revert back to their mantra of exercising personality responsibility — we should be able to eat what we want and use restraint (and keep the government out!). If you get fat, it is your problem, and no one else’s. That’s certainly how some New Yorkers felt when Mayor Bloomberg made unilateral decisions to cut down salt and trans fat from the city’s restaurants and markets (not to mention indoor smoking).

So why is this same theme of personal responsibility not applied to academic learning? All of the sudden, it is not the child and the parents’ responsibility to do well in school, but the teachers’? This is the thinking behind merit pay, value-added data, and other performance-based evaluative measures for teachers.

You can’t have it both ways.

I leave you with the inspiration for this post, The Conservative Hypocrisy.

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