Obesity and other lifestyle-related health problems have become increasingly fatal epidemics striking America's population in recent years. Though perhaps the most shocking and horrifying statistics can be found in the infection rates among our country's children. In fact, according to the data collected by The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, an estimated 16.9% of children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese and the prevalence is increasing (CDC, 2011). With similar trends present in childhood diabetes rates (among others), these regrettable results are certainly staggering and thus a call for major concern. Nevertheless, many continue to believe that a child's "free will" is culpable, noting children's propensities for unhealthy food and drink consumption as well as decreases in levels of physical activity. However, many education professionals believe that this "instinctual" trend can be reversed through an active approach to fitness education and evaluation on behalf of schools. In taking this approach, many schools have adopted the Presidential Fitness Testing system. By truly embracing and implementing a universal system of elementary fitness evaluation, The United States will also be gaining some ground on its worldly peers, many of whom have already integrated such collective approaches . In fact, research has shown that nations using universal fitness-testing regimes have historically performed better than those who have chosen to forgo such options . Thus the American Presidential Fitness testing system becomes an all the more attractive option.
This particular fitness-testing framework utilizes a wide array of traditional and non-traditional fitness indicators to accurately determine a child's fitness level. By setting specific targets for children based upon their ages, this program helps to create a universally applicable means of reporting data and achieving cumulative goals. Though even despite its noble goals and far-reaching potentials, many contemporary fitness educators continue to forgo this option citing its out-datedness and acute applicability. While the origins of this national program do date back to the mid-1950's when President Eisenhower created the President's Council on Youth and Fitness, many modernizing changes have since been made to ensure the lasting pertinence of this system . In fact, a recent article in the New York Times describes some of the latest advances in the Presidential Fitness Testing program that are now being offered to adults . Being that national health problems are affecting all segments of our current population, the adaptability of this system is certainly commendable.
The specific purpose of this proposal at the local level will be to examine the current and historical trends present in the physical education of children in the state of Illinois. This will include the means utilized to prepare and assess a student's physical fitness level, as well as the environment in which such education and evaluation takes place. Fiscal crises present in the state of Illinois have caused the slashing of educational budgets throughout the state and physical education departments have suffered a great deal. This reality has ultimately caused a significant amount of concern as to whether or not administrators and teaching professionals are now more prone to taking shortcuts in the fitness training and testing of students. For while Presidential Fitness Testing is stated as the collective norm, budget constraints have caused a great decline in governmental enforcement and an equal increase in local control over school fitness-testing regimes. As a result, several Illinois districts have been accused of slipshod methodology in assessing fitness levels. In fact, recent reports have shown that multiple Chicago districts have begun to completely abandon mandated Presidential Fitness Testing standards and simply calculate the student's Body Mass Index (BMI) in order to determine his or her physical education grade . Such practices illustrate a lack of educational dedication on behalf of such districts. What is more, such detrimental tactics have been shown to have direct negative effects on students' self-image and social behavior .
As can be ascertained from the data presented above, Illinois school districts are discarding the time-honored fitness testing techniques (like the Presidential Fitness Test) that have been shown to elicit cumulative performance improvements. Consequently, the obesity rates in this state are surging, while fitness-testing standards are becoming more and more relaxed . Though while schools do not bear full responsibility for growing childhood obesity rates, such institutions can certainly play a more active role in educating the student bodies regarding fitness. Moreover, the simplistic (yet far-reaching) nature of the Presidential Physical Fitness program allows schools to integrate this system without having to make massive expenditures on gym equipment or workout facilities . In fact, the curriculum (comprised of things like pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, endurance runs and agility runs) is actually designed to utilize the pre-existing facilities of almost every school . Therefore, the vast majority of schools are capable of reliably adhering to this proven plan without having to jeopardize their annual budget.
The purpose of this inquiry will be to wholly determine whether or not students are getting proper education about physical fitness. Included in this assessment will be an in depth ascertainment of whether or not students are being adequately prepared and taught the correct skills needed to perform well as measured on the President's Physical Fitness Test.
In accordance with a heightened sense of preparation, increased emphasis should be placed on teaching students the skills that are taught on the President's Physical Fitness Test. The specification and intensification of this educative emphasis will ultimately lead to improved scores on the test.
Review of Literature
Beginning in the early 1950's, there was a significant cause for concern arising from the physical fitness of American students' relative to their European peers. This matter was brought to the public forum when New York University professor Dr. Hans Kraus published a report entitled "Muscular Fitness and Health" in which he claimed that the prosperous state of the American economy at the time had caused citizens to begin rapidly losing muscle tone . Unlike previous generations, the great majority of Americans were now utilizing convenient means of public transportation, factory machinery and generally forgoing almost all forms of manual labor . To compensate for these changing times, Kraus repeatedly heeded the need for Americans to engage in daily exercise . After publishing several other reports on this topic and even creating a muscular fitness test of his own, Dr. Kraus was asked to present the culmination of his findings at a national convention of the American Medical Association in 1954 . This provided Kraus with a useful stage on which he was able to report his unfortunate results to the American public and the mainstream media. Shortly after this event, Kraus and several of his associates were invited to a luncheon at the White House by President Eisenhower to further discuss their findings and their recommendations for a collective solution. The casual encounter ultimately prompted a larger conference comprised of several government leaders and health professionals, the result of which was a recommendation to focus on the fitness of America's youth population. In keeping with this goal, President Eisenhower established the President's Council on Youth Fitness with the hope that this organization would ultimately become a catalyst for the education, motivation and encouragement of local communities and American citizens in achieving more active lifestyles .
President Kennedy successfully took over the reins in this cumulative battle for national fitness when he was elected in the early 1960's. By making physical fitness policy a key aspect of his campaign and subsequent presidency, Mr. Kennedy was able to clearly integrate his views of physical education into the pre-established national system. Using the pre-existent governmental structures, Kennedy advocated a more active approach in which he supported "youth fitness surveys, the national publishing of fitness information, and the offering of technical advice to schools and communities about how to improve physical fitness not only for youth but for Americans of all ages" (The Department of Health and Human Services, 2011, p. 3). And even though the laws of this period did not allow the federal government to implement a national fitness program, President Kennedy and his administration were able to persuade a majority of states to adopt the guidelines of the Presidential Council.
Several other presidents since John F. Kennedy have taken active roles in the furthering of the youth fitness cause in The United States. However, with wars and several other nationally threatening issues cropping up over the last number of decades, physical education initiatives were often left on the back burner. Nevertheless, several presidents (most notably Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and William Clinton) did accomplish a great deal in the battle to improve America's health and fitness (The Department of Health and Human Services, 2011). Though despite this massive governmental effort spanning more that a half-century, the United States never regained much ground with respect to the fitness levels of its European counterparts (The Department of Health and Human Services, 2011).
Today, the struggle to promote and instill physical fitness in…