Child Health & Pear Tree Education

Paul Romani

There’s no better example of “education connected to real life” than health and food

Today, I’d like to talk about two examples of this:

  1. What your kids are eating
  2. Child eyesight

1. What your kids are eating

I’m fascinated by sociology. However, the knowledge gained from this is depressing.
For example, it’s a fact that our future life is somewhat determined from the moment we are born.
Many Canadians seem to be oblivious to social levels (i.e. classes in society), yet these class distinctions are very evident. If you are born into a working/lower class family, you are less likely to go to university or secure a job with a top firm than someone born in a middle class family.
This is primarily connected with your upbringing. Middle class parents have different priorities to lower class and upper class parents. Attending an elite school will be a priority for upper class parents. And, just because you have attended that school, your life will be so much easier, because you will be labelled as superior to others, regardless of your actual grades/abilities. This is why there is such a fight to get into the Ivy League universities. It’s not so much the quality of education, but the prestige and the image that comes with it. I, myself, automatically give a Cambridge/Oxford graduate more respect than someone that attended another university. There’s no logic to that, it’s just the way we are brought up to think.
Another thing that social class determines is the quality of our life. If our parents are middle class, they will likely have a fairly good education. This will enable them to make more educated decisions about what to feed us and how best to care for us. Without this education, we are left to our best intentions and relying on our own childhood experiences.
Our class indicates the wealth of our family. More money likely means better food.
Nevertheless, there appears to be an overlap between the lower and middle class in terms of the food kids are eating. While a lower class family might not think twice about eating fast food, because they actually believe that companies like McDonalds are ‘good quality’, a middle class family might go to McDonalds through necessity. Nowadays, we live in dual-income families, i.e. mum and dad have to work. This means that there is less time for grocery shopping and cooking. Parents earn enough money to be persuaded to choose the slight more expensive ‘pre-prepared’ food AKA convenience food available in supermarkets, rather than having to good everything from scratch.
Whether it is ignorance or overwork, kids are suffering from terrible diets. This is the depressing part.
I see hoards of kids lining up for pizza slices every day. This is their lunch. Pizza. Not even real Italian pizza, but the thick doughy stodge with low-grade toppings.
If it’s not pizza, it’s some other kind of fast food: McDonalds, Tim Hortons, Dairy Queen, etc. Junk food.
Kids don’t think about healthy eating. Firstly, they (and perhaps their parents) think they are immune to obesity, because ‘they teenagers’. However, I can personally testify to gaining a lot of weight as a teenager from a very bad diet of convenience food, chocolate, fast food, etc.
Being a teenager doesn’t prevent obesity. Teenagers are affected by fast food – and not just through acne.
We all need to eat heathly to prevent obesity and other diseases. Cancer, for instance, has been shown to be caused by bad food, and to be preventable through healthy food choices.
At the end of the day it’s up to parents to provide a healthy diet for their kids. However, education should teach kids not only what to eat/not to eat, but also how to buy and cook this food.
Public schools focus on the science of food, but totally ignore cooking.
This photo illustrates that a hardworking, ‘intelligent’ girl can be overweight, because she isn’t learning what she really needs to know and/or isn’t applying knowledge to (her) real life.
A vegetable can be highly nutritious, but pretty tasteless when it is raw. However, it becomes extremely tasty, but less nutritious when cooked. This is because of the sugars released from the vegetables as they come in contact with heat. The British are notorious for overcooking their food. On the other hand, people who are too obsessed with their health might eat nothing but raw food, which is pretty boring considering how tasteless the food is. Being educated in food science and cooking helps us to find that balance between healthy eating and enjoyable eating.
The concerning thing is that it’s hard to change this situation. If parents don’t know about this or care about this, themselves, then they aren’t likely to listen to someone bestowing advice about healthy eating. It’s Vancouver culture to eat out every lunch time. I see business people everywhere eating at Cactus Club, etc., for lunch. How they can afford this is beyond me. Besides this, I can’t help but think how unhealthy this must be for them, considering that most restaurant food is richer than homecooked food.
Kids will imitate their parents. If you eat out every day, so will your kids.
Often, it’s when someone in the family dies that people final start listening. If anyone has seen Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution in America, you’ll understand what I mean by this.
Wouldn’t it be much better, though, if people started eating more healthy without this kind of shock treatment?!
There’s really not better example of education being applied to real life, than parents and kids using education to feed our bodies with good food and to have some control over the way our bodies develop.


2. Child Eyesight

The number of children wearing glasses is ever on the increase.
This is partly genetic. It’s also to do with the bad diet mentioned above.
Nevertheless, bad eyesight is increasingly caused by other aspects of our lifestyles: overwork and too much screen time.
Kids are required to do so much homework that they don’t get enough exercise or daylight time.
A BBC video shows that the number of children in China with myopia has increased from 20% to almost 90%. This is believed to be caused by too much time studying and too much computer game / TV time.
In both situations of bad diet and bad eyesight, we are talking about children from middle class families.
The really depressing thing in sociology is the reality that you’re faced with.
Parents that don’t know any better will raise their kids in the best way that they know of, but may actually be harming their kids in the process.
Families in Asia that are desperate for their kids to ‘do well’, oblige their kids to study ridiculous numbers of hours. Exercise is of no priority whatsoever (unless the child has professional potential).
However, is obesity and myopia a worthwhile trade-off for ‘success’. Success comes from happiness with one’s life. However, obesity and self-consciousness cause depression, not happiness.
Success is determined by more factors than school grades.
Self empowerment is the greatest education any parent can give their child.