In his State of the Commonwealth address Monday, Gov. Ernie Fletcher proposed creating a state fitness program to combat the high obesity rate in Kentucky and to extend the school year to allow more time for fitness and health activities in Kentucky schools.
Of course, we wont know how much Fletcher proposes to spend on what are indeed admirable goals extending the school year even a couple of extra days wont be cheap until he submits his budget to the General Assembly, but were going to play devils advocate here.
Just as you cannot legislate morality, you cant enact legislation that transforms 4 million or so Kentuckians into svelte fitness fanatics.
Everyone knows, for example, that a portion of steamed broccoli is a whole lot healthier to eat than a super sized order of french fries, but given the choice, the fries win out every time.
So what can state government do about what is, in the final analysis, a lifestyle issue?
Can a $5 million-a-year state program requiring an office, director and staff, computers the whole array of state bureaucratic necessities change the fact that in Kentucky homes where both parents work, dinner often is going to be a bucket of Colonel Sanders famous recipe or an order-in large pizza with everything?
Can a new state Division of Anti-Obesity propel Kentucky teens out from in front of the latest video gaming craze and into the driveway to shoot baskets for an hour every day after school?
And will two or three extra days in the school year make up for the lost class time necessary for Kentucky students to participate in fitness and health activities throughout the entire school year? And who will pay the salaries of professionals needed in every school to supervise those fitness and health activities?
The truth is that Frankfort can no more make Kentuckians of whatever age healthier and fitter than it can make them stop smoking if they dont want to.
Far better to spend the money necessary for this new bureaucracy on helping schools buy the healthier foods already required in school cafeterias including, of course, tons of broccoli to steam.