School Then and Now

Before talking more about the BrainWeighve phone app, some background school might be helpful.

An adult who is now of grandparent age might remember a relatively serene educational experience. Of course, a lot depends on geography and the makeup of the local population, but in the more polite olden days, there was probably less physical fighting, especially when teachers were empowered to maintain order by administering physical punishments. In the present, with ubiquitous cameras and, in many schools, even armed law officers, it may be that fights tend to occur outside of school grounds. They certainly involve more serious weapons.

There was gossip aplenty, based on the overheard whispers of grownups. One informant notes that in grade school, the knowledge that a teacher was divorced spread very quietly, and was received with shock. But knowing that a classmate’s parents had split up, and that the boy or girl lived only with a mother, and no father, could be news of monumental significance. There was definitely a stigma. Today, some kids glibly recite a whole list of successive step-parents to anyone who will listen, and even with a certain amount of pride. In the scandal sweepstakes, to be a child of divorce, or even multiple divorces, is hardly worth mentioning.

Shocking events

The informant says, “In 6th grade, I was privy to disturbing information about the doings at a camp run by a respected girls’ organization, and overheard a particularly nasty boy bragging about stuff that went on at some kind of boys’ sleepover. There were whispers about a male teacher who showed too much interest in a certain girl student, but he was transferred to another school.”

By and large, public schools in the 1950s tended to be pretty tame. Even in high school, kids weren’t dealing with the kind of stuff that goes on now (at least according to popular movies) like revenge porn being spread online. A young student might be presented with a moral dilemma, like whether to let a classmate see his answers on a pop quiz. Now, he could face a bigger challenge, like whether to make pocket money by writing someone else’s term paper.

Back in the day, a girl didn’t want a “reputation” or to be known as “fast.” There might have been one girl in the whole senior class who “got in trouble” and disappeared to “stay with relatives in another state for a while.” Now, for 9th-graders, being known as sexually active is a status-builder, and pregnancy scares are a topic of daily conversation.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Food, of course, has always been a fertile area for teasing, and a potential source of shame. When a child brought in a lunch packed at home, it might smell funny, or be too ethnic, containing ingredients not considered edible by the mainstream. If Mom stuck a little note in the lunch bag, a child could hear about it for a year. Some kids didn’t even have lunch. Some kids don’t have lunch now, unless it is provided by a government-administered program, and that can be a fertile ground for stigma.

(To be continued…)

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Image by Florida Keys Public Library/CC BY 2.0

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources