Under current California law, public school children in fifth, seventh and ninth grades are given a physical fitness test that measures everything from aerobic capacity to flexibility and upper body strength.
According to the California Department of Education, “the main goal of the test is to help students in starting life-long habits of regular physical activity. The test has six parts that show a level of fitness that offer a degree of defense against diseases that come from inactivity. The test results can be used by students, teachers, and parents.”
Because of dramatic increases in childhood obesity, not just in California but throughout the nation, it makes sense to have some way of measuring the fitness of our kids. Such tests can also motivate young people to improve their overall health.
But starting next year, schools will suspend the fitness exam because, according to Governor Newsom, physical fitness tests are “discriminatory.”
As explained by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Department of Finance, the suspension is based on complaints from parents that the test is discriminatory to students with disabilities and to non-binary students, since it includes a Body Mass Index screening that offers only male or female options. (Fact check: students with disabilities are not required to take the test.)
DOF spokesperson H.D. Palmer also pointed to studies that show BMI screenings could lead to body shaming and bullying: “Given the body of research on the impacts of bullying on transgender and special education students, during this period of suspension, it’s important to take this pause and determine whether the current test can be modified or whether a new assessment should be developed.”
While bullying in school is a real problem that needs to be addressed, it makes no sense to sacrifice the health of the majority of public school children on the chance that some kids may have their feelings hurt.
Increasingly, California political leaders are rejecting the values of excellence and individual achievement. This rejection is harmful to our youth. “Protecting” students, particularly as they grow older, from the realities that life can be unfair, not only to those capable of excellence, but also to the very youth this mindset seeks to shield.
Another example of California’s intentional pursuit of mediocrity at the expense of excellence is revealed in the ongoing battle over college admissions.
Progressive activists have even filed suit arguing that standardized tests are unfair to minority communities, notwithstanding the fact that everyone has to take the same test.
Although a recent report from a special University of California taskforce recommended that such tests continue to be administered, it also outlined a long-term plan to rely on more subjective admission criteria. California is doing a pretty poor job of preparing our young people to succeed in the future. In real life, like it or not, people will be judged on their values, intellect, work ethic and their ability to deal with adversity. They will also be judged on how they interact with others, including unpleasant people or people who think much differently than they do.
Are we really doing our young people a favor by providing “safe spaces” on college campuses and prohibiting controversial speakers and ideas? In real life, there are no participation trophies. In the real world, there is no sanctuary from actions or words that might “trigger” young people who have never had to confront something they might find offensive.
Historically, California has been an exceptional state. Let’s not suppress the development of our youth into becoming exceptional citizens.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.