No Magic Pill

Knowledge + effort + time = success

For the kids

Posted by Ben on Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In case you missed it, there’s been a story floating around the past few days about a kid in Connecticut who sounds like a pitching phenom. Apparently, this kid throws so hard—and accurately—for his age that one team in his league forfeited, packed up, and went home when they saw he’d be pitching against them that day. His team’s league has said he’s no longer allowed to pitch because he’s just too good. Without getting into the what-ifs and why-nots of the matter, what a great message to send, not only to this kid but to kids everywhere: if you’re too good, you won’t be allowed to play in any reindeer games. Pending the outcome of this situation, I’m sadly not surprised—how prevalent is this mindset in society? Very. Dumb down the material to the lowest common denominator so that everyone can participate, everyone can “succeed,” everyone can “win” and take home a trophy—more like Atrophy if you ask me, atrophy of the will and desire to excel and develop individual talents for fear of ostracism and marginalization. When “success” comes easily and kids—well, everyone, for that matter—begin to expect “success” (read: having everything handed to them on a silver platter), not only do they develop an unrealistic perception of themselves and the world around them, but they pout and whine and sometimes become violent when their expectations aren’t met. I saw this a lot in my classrooms, especially in my honors students, many of whom were sailing through grade school with minimal intellectual resistance. They got to my class, I challenged them a little, and suddenly, I was a mean ol’ (23-year-old!) teacher. To them, I recommended a commencement speech courtesy of radio talk show host Neal Boortz.

That being said, let kids be kids! Parents, if they allow sports at all, track their kids toward one sport or another as soon as they start walking instead of just letting the kids try out different activities, develop other interests, or *gasp* just PLAY! Kids are supposed to be enthusiastic and energetic, especially in their learning, but society dictates that they get up earlier than their biology is wired for, sit quietly still for six or eight hours at a time, come home and sit for another couple hours through homework and supper, then go to bed often at a time much later than they’re wired for. All the while, parents hover over every single minute of every single day, making sure their kids are “safe,” which usually involves little or no physical activity and often also includes instantly jumping on teachers and other kids’ parents for not bowing down to their precious little downloads. Again, I say let kids be kids. Let them run around, jump, fall down, splash in puddles, make mud pies, skin knees, eat worms, bring home frogs (without getting yelled at), ride bikes, and all sorts of “dangerous” things. Think about constraining a puppy the way our society constrains kids. Don’t you think that puppy would be extra hyper, disruptive, and even destructive? You think kids are any different in their energy output? And this says nothing of the psychological consequences (potentially NSFW) that all this stress puts on a youngster in his or her formative years. Instead, we’ve managed to medicate (Ritalin) and hypnotize (video games, TV, computers) our munchkins into lazy, sedentary blobs who may not outlive their parents (it appears North Carolina just passed a traffic law aimed at dealing with the current state of affairs, at least *ahem*). They’re deprived of real sex education, monetary education, culinary (read: alcohol) education, and are instead left to figure it all out on their own or from peers who often don’t know any more than the next person. The results: unplanned pregnancies and STDs, credit crises, binge drinking, and brotards, but it’s okay because Mom said you were special (just like everyone else). Good job, everyone, congratulations! These kids have no realistic sense of themselves.

What comes of all this, aside from the obvious health issues, is that otherwise pointless (non)issues become larger than life. How else do you explain the hysteria that accompanies American Idol and other “reality” TV, Harry Potter movies (I have no problem with the books—books are books, usually), Britney/Paris/Lindsey, and such? People end up living through others’ lives, and there’s no better place to find those other lives than on TV, which has been linked to altered brain wave activity, essentially hypnotizing viewers (and don’t think marketers aren’t taking advantage).

Needless to say, I have a pretty pessimistic view of the direction our society is heading. However, that’s not to say there isn’t hope for change, but IF it happens, it’s going to be a long, difficult, expensive, painful process… unless the kids get hooked and grow up with a sense of physical activity (hey, it’s fun!) and decent nutrition (hey, this doesn’t taste like salt and/or sugar!). This is the main reason for my recent and growing interest in youth conditioning and athletics. I’ve been reading more and more on proper physical programming for children, and you know what? The majority of it involves just getting kids to be kids, learning what their bodies can do through running, jumping, and all sorts of things (some of which even involve *double gasp* free weights), which would normally be an exercise in self-education, but like so many other things, this behavior is often suppressed once Junior learns how to walk (apologies for forgetting where I heard this, but one noted person in the weightlifting community said something to the effect of: “I didn’t learn how to squat. I learned how to stand up.”). The human body and mind in conjunction are powerfully intelligent entities if allowed to develop naturally. Unfortuantely, it’s taking a rise in “youth conditioning” and similar movements in adult fitness to teach people how to forget what they’ve “learned.”

We aren’t all cut out to be elite physical specimens, and by that, I mean about 99% of us, but we can at least develop ourselves to our potentials, which doesn’t involve cookie-cutter workouts and fad diets, but it does involve commitment, hard work, and time. It’s tough to teach an old dog new tricks, but it’s not impossible; however, think how much easier it would be to hook ’em young (ya know, like churches and cigarette companies). Who knows, maybe you’ll want to do something fun with your kids that involves physical activity, maybe you’ll do this stuff often, and maybe—just maybe—many adults will finally swallow their pride and realize that there’s a lot to learn from (being) kids.

—Body matters: a couple nuggets from Jonathan (namely research into stretching), recovery is physical as well as mental, your lower back is supposed to have a LIMITED range of rotation, ’tis the season for knee injuries.
—Food: Spezzatino has arrived from Berardi et al of Gourmet Nutrition acclaim, eat in the context of your training (read: more when you are, less when you aren’t), eating out doesn’t have to be a dietary bomb, the occasional hot dog isn’t going to kill you (note the word “occasional”), Mark touts low-carb on local TV, colleges shun trays to save calories and save the planet, MSG is still bad for you, all hail urban farming (Victory gardens are definitely a way to go), and for goodness’ sake, EAT if you’re pregnant!
—Mind matters: Lyle posts part 4 of 5 on his leptin series, stop making excuses, finding and making sense of the medical literature.
—Geek-out: a Lego anniversary, the search for dark matter, biological music, the Internet is more screwed than first thought, iPhones are more screwed than first thought, virii in space, Olympics (China restores most of iTunes, Dara Torres undergoes shoulder surgery, limits of human speed revised), Krakatau erupts again, survive a power blackout, X-ray photography, Leno speaks to the American car maker.

Finally, a congratulations to Cassandra Forsyth-Pribanic (left), co-author of The New Rules of Lifting for Women, who was recently married. Blah blah blah, I just wanted an excuse to post this picture of what muscle on women should look like:

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One Response to “For the kids”

  1. ce said

    Wow! I am definitely saving this text. Brilliantly written!

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