"Shape up America!": Understanding Fatness as a Curriculum Project

  • Laura Azarito


Like children’s academic performance in school, children’s body weight and fitness are under siege. Fatness has become a central issue in the school curriculum as schools are being held accountable for obesity among children. Cultural discourses of “bodies at risk,” and a “society at risk” in the United States, including the circulation of “fat phobia” (Evans, Rich, & Davies, 2004; Gard, 2004; Gard & Wright, 2001) reflect a pervasive social preoccupation with the body. Doctors, epidemiologists, kinesiology researchers, and fitness advocates have declared war against fatness, contending that obesity/overweight is an “epidemic,” a world problem, a “public health crisis among children worldwide” (Whitlock, Williams, Gold, Smith, & Shipman, 2006, p. 125). Schools, as microcosms of society, are not immune to, but are implicated in the production of these alarming discourses. To respond to this crisis, schools have been called to embrace, be responsible for, and help young people develop a healthy, slim physicality.