SPRINGFIELD - The nation's defense could be at stake if the state lowers physical education requirement from daily to three days a week, retired military leaders said in Springfield Wednesday.
“PE is essential to our public education system, and is part of the state’s duty to our nation,” Illinois National Guard Major General (Ret) William Enyart said in a press conference held at the Capitol.
“The Armed Forces are now dealing with the consequences of the childhood obesity epidemic,” Major General (Ret.) Randal Thomas said.
Statistics show that 71% of young people in Illinois are ineligible for military service with obesity as the leading medical reason, reported Mission: Readiness Council for a Strong America, a group of retired admirals and generals focused on "strengthening national security by ensuring kids stay in school, stay fit, and stay out of trouble" said.
The proposed requirement change for public schools and universities appears in a bill introduced by Senate Minority Leader Chris Radogno (R-Lemont) - SB 13. The changes appear on pages 69 and 70 of a 78-page bill with the main focus of freezing property tax hikes for two years.
The proposal allows school boards to lower physical education requirements from daily to a minimum of three days a week:
The changes are unacceptable, the generals said. Their efforts were joined by physicians and supported by the American Heart Association.
Parents are joining the call for more, not less, time in the school day for their children to be more physically active. Some parents attribute their children's ADHD-esque behavior on the lack of movement during the school day.
One researcher wrote in the Washington Post about the need for children's recess periods:
Over the past decade, more and more children are being coded as having attention issues and possibly ADHD. A local elementary teacher tells me that at least eight of her twenty-two students have trouble paying attention on a good day. At the same time, children are expected to sit for longer periods of time. In fact, even kindergarteners are being asked to sit for thirty minutes during circle time at some schools.
The problem: children are constantly in an upright position these days. It is rare to find children rolling down hills, climbing trees, and spinning in circles just for fun. Merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters are a thing of the past. Recess times have shortened due to increasing educational demands, and children rarely play outdoors due to parental fears, liability issues, and the hectic schedules of modern-day society. Lets face it: Children are not nearly moving enough, and it is really starting to become a problem.
The researcher, Valerie Strauss, went on to write:
Children are going to class with bodies that are less prepared to learn than ever before. With sensory systems not quite working right, they are asked to sit and pay attention. Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to “turn their brain on.” What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to “sleep.”
Fidgeting is a real problem. It is a strong indicator that children are not getting enough movement throughout the day. We need to fix the underlying issue. Recess times need to be extended and kids should be playing outside as soon as they get home from school. Twenty minutes of movement a day is not enough! They need hours of play outdoors in order to establish a healthy sensory system and to support higher-level attention and learning in the classroom.
In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move.
And, according to the generals that spoke out in Springfield Wednesday, America's defense depends upon children moving more in school.