Matthew Syed, British journalist, three-time Commonwealth table tennis champion and a two-time Olympian, was recently at a school in south London to open a new table tennis club.
The school was “magnificent” and, in the words of its headmaster, it would “not allow anything stand in the way of these kids reaching their potential”. Despite this, the school’s caring approach was not producing the results sought for. It was discover that pupils from the school often struggled to make it through University and had higher drop-out rates. The reason was then found out, as the headmaster confesses:
“But then we realised that that was part of the problem. We had done too much. Any time they messed up, we were there to pick them up. Every time they strayed, we put them back on course. We were, in effect, spoon-feeding them”.
The realization prompts Mr Syed to a wider reflection on the current debate on nutrition:
““[…] And this brings me to the obesity epidemic. Over the past fortnight, we have heard from a number of health “experts”. They have argued for new taxes on sugary food, negative advertising on high-fat ready meals; some have even proposed that people with a body mass index above 30 should be offered a stomach stapling operation at the expense of the taxpayer.
Their motivation is sound. They want people to be thinner and healthier. The interventions, from their perspective, make sense and may even, in the short term, work. But now take a step back and think of the psychological consequences.
The message to society is: we will make you thinner. Don’t worry about taking responsibility for what you put in your mouths or taking exercise: we will orchestrate the world (to the extent of manipulating prices and stapling your belly) to make sure you lose weight. They have even “medicalised” the problem of overeating, talking about people who are “weak-willed” or have “addictive personalities”.
The consequence is unavoidable and rather tragic: another weakening in the concept of self-reliance […]”
Read the full article here.