In this Old Man Shouts At Cloud column, GARETH NEWMAN has an alternative to the Government’s plans to teach financial literacy in schools.
I liked the sound of the Government’s plan, announced last week, to teach financial literacy in schools. My only issue with it is that it didn’t happen decades ago. Why were schools wasting time teaching languages that students would never use in real life? Generations of New Zealanders could be a whole lot more knowledgeable about how money works, and hopefully, be leading more comfortable lives as a result.
But the news about teaching financial literacy even to primary school students got me thinking. What about HEALTH LITERACY?
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I’ve seen my kids go through school learning absolutely nothing about the value of food, the nutritional value of various food groups, how to prepare food, or where the hell it all comes from.
From kindergarten on they had hotdogs and sausage rolls rammed down their throats (metaphorically speaking). By the time they hit primary school the PPTA was out there fundraising at playtime with sausage sizzles. The free lunches often included meats that no enlightened government would recommend because of its carcinogenic properties. And the food provided by the majority of parents was mostly just junk.
I guess it’s hard to teach health literacy when the teachers themselves have such limited awareness of nutrition and what a growing body requires to be healthy. Almost all the health emphasis is on sports when it’s known that food intake is much more defining in overall health stats than exercise.
In some countries kids are taught about all the common foods from an early age. In Japan, they even have lavish full-colour books explaining what’s good and bad about every single vegetable, fish or meat product. By the time a student leaves school there, they’re very aware of their body’s nutritional requirements and what it needs to remain healthy. No wonder Japanese lifespans are much higher than our own. In New Zealand, the awareness on this topic is virtually nil. This, at a time when we’re facing an unprecedented fat epidemic (and yes, I know you’re not allowed to say fat anymore, but go fuck yourself. Fat, fat, fat!).
If an elected government was willing to implement comprehensive nutritional education in our schools, chances are this would transform society and health outcomes in a way that financial literacy never could. If an elected government then made the complementary decision to spiral the price of sugary soft drinks and similar products and bring down the price of healthier options, it would be a win-win situation for everyone.
Is any of this likely to happen in a country obsessed with fatty, carcinogen-laced meat and its associated industries? Not likely. Despite the immense threat the poor diets we learn from childhood pose in terms of chronic disease, and the equally immense cost to our overloaded health system.