In what may the most telling sign yet that our society is in a deep, and perhaps permanent, decline, comes word that the U.S. Army has dramatically altered its fitness and basic training requirements for new recruits. Why? Because they can't handle it. A jaw-dropping front-page New York Times article reports a 70 percent increase in recruit drop outs between 1998 and 2008 because, as an Army spokesperson pointed out, the combination of a sedentary lifestyle, the reduction of gym classes in public schools due to budget cuts and, yes, good ol' fast food has created a generation of overweight, out-of-shape teenagers. It's no exaggeration to say the Big Mac is playing a key role in undermining our nation's security here and abroad.
In an effort to retain anyone remotely fit, the Army has dramatically altered its physical training regimen for the first time in history. Get this: they've dropped sit-ups and long runs from their training. How sad is it that the average Repman reader can probably bang out more push-ups and run a longer distance than the typical American teen?
There's something strangely symmetrical about America's decades-long decline. Initially, we saw it with our kids' test scores, particularly in math and science. Reports showed the very best engineers, the ones who will be inventing next generation technology, all seem to be coming from India or Asia. Many attend America's top universities since Stanford, Harvard, et al, are still among the world's elite. But, the newly-minted grads quickly return to their place of birth and apply their newfound acumen to solving a different country's technology challenges.
Now, we're seeing the result of years of physical and nutritional neglect coming home to roost (that last line was a salute to our nation's farmers who, as Repman readers will recall, are thought of more highly than PR types).
It's getting to the point where our kids not only can't outthink the competition, they can't outfight them. With each passing day, I'm starting to better understand what the average Roman citizen must have felt circa 476 A.D.
The saddest thing about teenage obesity is that it's solvable. But, there's really no one to hold accountable. Who will force parents to prepare better meals (and steer the kids away from Mickey D's)? And, if the kids aren't exercising in school because of budget cutbacks, how do we encourage them to embrace fitness? And, if Nintendo and Sony continue to churn out reality-based, slash-and-burn video games that keep the teens glued to their computers, how will they burn calories? Maybe the industrial design company IDEO can create a fat-burning mouse.
This is a sad, sad state of affairs. I, for one, am totally embarrassed. I think I'll go climb a mountain to burn off the stress.