Here’s an idea for a mandate to receive state benefits

A member of the Marietta Board of Education is criticizing the state mandate that will require BMI testing for all students in public schools.

“It seems like it’s a way to rub parents’ noses in the fact that their child is overweight, out of shape and what have you,” he said. “If they’re good parents, they already know it, so it doesn’t seem very useful. It’s a way for the state to collect data, that’s why this is mandated.”

And for parents who don’t pay attention to their child’s health, Weiner said this won’t change anything.

“A piece of paper pointing out whether or not your child is fit as defined by the state will not open the eyes of parents who don’t value good nutrition and exercise,” he said.

You may remember this from a few years back when Senate Bill 506 (2008) was passed.  First designed to allow a ranking of fat schools on a state website, the measure was amended to focus more on fitness tests. But BMI measurement is still part of the data collection. “First through 12th-graders will have their height and weight recorded, while fourth through 12th-graders will also be measured on activities such as curl-ups, push-ups and aerobics.”

Body mass index is a measure that simply plugs in a person’s weight and height to determine whether they fall within the healthy range or whether they are underweight, overweight or obese. There are two main criticisms of BMI. First, that the tool does not distinguish between lean body mass and fat, so that for example, a muscular athlete may have single-digit body fat but still register as obese by BMI. Second, that the tool is useful for comparing conclusions about populations, but not individual cases.

Well, here’s a suggestion. Recently, Republicans have introduced bills to require volunteer work in order to be eligible for unemployment insurance and to mandate drug testing to receive your unemployment check. Some folks have responded with the idea of testing legislators before they can take office.

How about requiring candidates to have their height and weight measured and published before they can take office?



  1. Calypso says:

    When it’s mandated that faculty and staff have their BMI tested along with the push-ups, curl-ups and aerobics, then it will be fine to do the same for the students.

    Is there a test to measure the fat between a legislators ears?

  2. Doug Deal says:

    From a mathematical view, the equation is also flawed in that it is proportional to the square of height. This means that it might be valuable (assuming constant lean to fat body mass) for people in the middle, tall people like me and short people like Charlie 🙂 will fall off of the scale, as we are three dimensional objects and grow in three dimensions as get bigger. Not proportionally in all three, since a lot is growth of the legs, so it is not proportional to the cube of height, but it is clearly not proportional to the square.

    Trusting BMI is like using the Alabama definition of pi = 3.

    (Fun fact: Pie is often the reason why BMI is high in most Americans, and it also makes you more round).

    • Just because a statistic is flawed though doesn’t mean it’s not worth collecting it when the alternative is collecting nothing.

      I think some parents are probably delusion about their child being too fat or too thin and having the school system tell them could be worthwhile.

      • DTK says:


        Is there any area of family life that you would consider off-limits for the government to try and influence, or is pretty much anything fair game? And if there is a line to be drawn, I would be interested in hearing what, if any, limiting principle you would establish in helping to draw that line.

        I like reading your posts. I think you’re pretty smart and I like that you generally argue in good faith. So, I’m not trying to put you on the spot. I’m geniunely interested in your answer.

        • Good question. Lines are hard to draw. Weight problems ultimately lead to government expenditures whether it’s diabetes medicine or something else. I suppose you could argue that it’s a slippery slope, but I don’t think that on its own is a valid reason to be for or against something. Your footing could be slippery and you could still right yourself, in other words.

          But – they teach health in school and I could imagine school systems might want to tailor what they teach to an area – and surely measuring BMI is better than just asking teachers whether their kids are fatter than average.

          I also think that liberals and conservatives both let their own biases get in the way of good proposals that could help other people. In this example, there are a lot of parents who need help raising their kids whether they send them to public school or private school – and I think the hypothetical fear of the type of parent who is doing everything right and being attentive at someone “telling them how to raise their kids” sometimes gets in the way of a policy that actually would tell the people who don’t know how how to raise their kids what to do – and depending on the issue I could see people of any ideological stripe being caught up in this.

          But personally I apply the “I know it when I see it” test to this kind of stuff and measuring BMI and potentially telling parents that their kids are too fat or too thin (or even just telling them that you might want to ask a doctor what this BMI result means) doesn’t cross the line for me.

        • To add a little more context, there are some people out there who have a natural inclination to oppose any additional encroachment. There are also people who want to always push the boundaries. They both have their place.

          My personal standard is to try to think things out. One way of looking at something is to say what if the proposed already existed – would I be against it? Let’s say they had been measuring BMI (the same way a lot of schools measure your height – I certainly seem to remember that) for the last 100 years – would I be out there trying to remove it? Probably not.

          By the same standard – what if they want to ask kids their sexuality. That’s something I’d be against – and if they were already doing it I’d be fighting to try to remove it. But that’s just not the way I feel about BMI.

          Like I said – some people always want to push the envelope and others always want to say no. That’s a valid position to have and we need those people on both sides. That’s just not the roll I prefer to play myself.

  3. ted in bed says:

    I think Legislators should lead by example. Let’s put them through the Cobb County Police Fitness Test (a real ball breaker). Any who fail, have to resign immediately.

  4. saltycracker says:

    The slippery slope is that when the public is required to get involved in the costs of others medical care, they should have some say to set boundaries and surcharges for poor choices.

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