School makes Children sick!

Abstract: This article describes how the classroom situation can affect children's health. The author suggests that the Government uses school as an instrument to control society, and deliberately make children sick at school, in order to exercize its control more easily. In class, children suffer from the cold and from low immunity levels, as a result of which children are ill all the time.

A. Illness caused by School

School can have a bad effect on a child's health in many ways. One only has to think of the stress caused by discipline, exams, time pressure, peer pressure and sport performance. Or the physical injuries resulting from schoolyard bullying and physical exercise. This is all common knowledge and has been discussed in great detail in earlier articles in this magazine.

What I want to show in this article is that school also causes children to suffer from what is often referred to as the most common illness: the common cold! I will explain that the common cold, just like the above-mentioned health problems, is a direct result of the way school operates, it is inherent to the education system.

B. Temperature Control

To better understand what I mean, let us first take a closer look into the way the human body controls its temperature. Several automatic mechanisms coexist to keep body temperatures at about 37 degrees Celcius. The most obvious way to prevent the body from excessive exposure to cold or heat is to seek shelter and to put on or respectively take off clothes. If one gets too hot, exposure of as much body surface as possible to a bit of draught has a cooling effect; sweating will increase this effect. If one gets too cold, muscles in the skin contract, making hairs rise and protecting the blood from exposure. Muscle contraction itself creates heat; even if one does not intentionally move, the body will use this mechanism, i.e. start shivering.

How much one suffers from heat or cold depends in part on the ratio body-content/body-surface. If one is big and fat, one suffers more from heat than from cold. Children - who have a relatively low body-content/body-surface ratio - have more problems coping with the cold. This explains why children generally appear so active compared to adults. Their many movements are simply efforts of their bodies to cope with the cold. Only on exceptionally hot days do room temperatures exceed the body temperature. Therefore, the body will require to heat itself most of the time and muscle movement is one way to achieve that.

C. Suffering from the Cold

Again, this is all common knowledge, except perhaps for shoolteachers. Because what school does is exposing children to both heat and cold in a way that endangers children's health. Exposure to heat has received much media coverage over the past few years. Much has been written about the way children are often forced onto schoolgrounds when the sun is at its highest point and without protective clothing, shade from trees, sunscreen, hats or sunglasses.

What is rarely reported, however, is that children are often excessively exposed to the cold. On their way to school in the morning, children wear coats and hats, but they are not allowed to wear them in class, where it often is colder than outside. Even in the afternoon, when the classroom is warmer, the teacher may feel quite comfortable, but the teacher is allowed to walk up and down the aisles and frequently moves between desk and blackboard. Children are immediately disciplined if they start moving.

Making children sit still in class seems to be an important part of what school is about, some even believe that this is all school is about: disciplining children, so that they pay attention and respect to the teacher.

But in fact the children are not able to concentrate much on what the teacher is saying at all, because they are slowly getting ill. This may sound weird to many people. Few will accept that the classroom generally is too cold for kids, many actually believe that a classroom needs to be a bit cold, otherwise the kids get lazy! And indeed, a relatively low temperature may be helpful if one does manual labour or moves about a lot. But when forced to sit still for long periods, low temperatures inhibit thinking, the body only concentrates on getting warm.

D. What is it, a Disease?

Some may wonder, if children are really suffering from the cold in class, why then are they not constantly shivering? The answer is that the human body uses multiple mechanisms simultaneously to cope with cold. Shivering requires a lot of energy. The blood simply cannot get enough energy and oxygen to the muscles fast enough for constant movement. To avoid fatigue, the body will at some stage use another mechanism. But before discussing this other mechanism in greater detail, we need to take a closer look at what a disease really is.

There is a significant school of thought that believes that a disease often is not so much some spell of bad luck that befalls a person, but rather a way to deal with one's environment. A schoolboy may feel his leg hurt when losing a race. A schoolgirl may develop a headache or a hearing problem, when she finds it difficult to follow the teacher. These are not medical problems, but ways to cope with the fact that one cannot perform as one would like to. These are psychological problems, if one can call them problems at all. The human body has a huge scala of reactions to cope with situations and some of them are hardly understood. Why, e.g., do humans cry? Is it because one cannot cope with the situation and therefore fakes eye irritation by some piece of dust, simply to draw the attention on one's eyes? Whatever it is, to call the appearance of tears, however irrational, a disease, i.e. a medical problem, is definitely a wrong approach.

A similar thing happens when children get exposed to low temperatures for a long period. They develop a cold as a solution to their problem, i.e. the low temperatures. This is not a disease, it is simply a reaction to the cold.

When all else fails, when there is insufficient shelter and in the absence of muscle movement to get warm, the body resorts to another mechanism. In evolutionary terms, situations may have occurred when hiding or hunting for animals was necessary. Those capable of 'freezing' in the sense of not making any movement, without literally freezing from the cold, had a definite advantage.

The mechanism used by the body in such situations is to lower the immunity level. Normally, bacteria and viruses present in the body are kept under control by the immunity system. But when the immunity level is lowered, these organisms start multiplying rapidly and, in the process, create heat. Clearly, this is a very inefficient way for the body to keep warm; it requires a lot of energy, much more than to create heat by muscle contraction which is done with the help of oxygen. Furthermore, it takes a lot of energy to get rid of the surplus of bacteria and viruses, once heat can again be created by means of muscle contraction. The body will seek to use the mechanism of lowering the immunity level only in cases of emergency, in exceptional situations and for short periods.

Once the body starts moving again and the blood starts flowing again, the immunity level is raised in order to quickly get rid of the surplus of bacteria and viruses. But the body will not kill all of them; many bacteria are useful, they are actually needed for digestion, etc. The body even keeps otherwise unfriendly bacteria and viruses in small amounts, for this very purpose of temperature management. As long as the body can recognise them, it can keep them under control.

Now let's go back to the classroom environment. The temperature is lower than body temperature, but the kids are not allowed to move or to put on their coats and hats. Uniforms are the rule. Also, there usually is a nasty draught present in classrooms, to get rid of body odours. School buildings are often made of wood; even with doors closed, the wind goes right through, which may be nice in summer, but not so in winter. In class, children are effectively in hiding, as fear, humiliation and punishment are school's disciplinary tools. This results in closed up skin, high adrinaline levels and stress, which in itself can cause low immunity levels. But above all, it is the fact that the children are not allowed to move for long periods that causes their bodies to lower immunity levels in order to cope with the cold. And the fact that this occurs in class is what makes the children ill.

E. Why do people fall ill?

Under normal circumstances, the human body is quite capable to deal with a surplus of bacteria and viruses, as anti-bodies against all of them are ready, waiting for the signal. Once the immunity level is boosted again, the body quickly gets rid of any surplus.

The problem is that school puts many children together in one classroom, who all simultaneously drop their immunity level. This causes a lot of coughing and the viruses literally float in the air, viruses some of which are unknown to other kids. Normally, the body can cope with a new virus, when introduced in small amounts. The immune system starts to recognize it and builds up anti-bodies to keep it under control.

But the classroom situation is the worst scenario possible, as all kinds of new bacteria and viruses emerge at the very moment when a child's immunity level is at its lowest. As a result, a new virus can multiply frantically and one develops a fever. It may then take the body days to get the virus under control and, all that time, the body is in such a poor condition that concentration on subject matter is virtually zero.

This is not something that happens just once or twice every winter. The point is that it is more the norm than the exception that the body has to resort to such inefficient ways to keep the body warm, resulting in virtual permanent lack of concentration because of lack of oxygen in the brain as the blood is more busy with viruses than with carrying oxygen.

E. The Effect of Drugs

The typical answer of the medical profession is to administer anti-biotics. This may kill many bacteria, but it does not kill viruses. What's more, it does not keep the child warm in class. Administering such drugs may actually worsen the situation, as the body cannot use the bacteria it needs, e.g. to create heat. The result may be an even lower immunity level, which makes the child very vulnerable for viruses.

E. The Role of Nutrition

Nutrition is an important factor in staying healthy. A large part of nutrition is spent on keeping the body warm. Fatigue is often the direct result of the blood running out of energy or iron to keep the muscles going. In sports such as cycling, where it is important to persist when others get tired, a bit of sugarwater can do wonders, as it is quickly digested and used to give that extra push. But in class, children are not allowed to eat while the teacher is talking, even if their bodies clearly indicate that they need something. School prohibits all the ways the body would normally follow to manage body temperature. In class, children atc getting too cold. When they are outside, they are often too hot, either due to excessive exposure to direct sunlight or due to sport or other excessive movement. This is a disastrous combination for the body to cope with; when the kids are all sweaty, they return to class which makes their body temperature quickly drop to dangerously low levels. And then they have to sit still and listen to the teacher.

After an exhausting day at school, the children come home sick and hungry, but they have to wait until 6.00 or 7.00 pm before they get their main meal, because of the work and associated travel of one or both of the parents. This leaves them without proper nutrition during the day when they need it, while they are fed fatty stuff when they don't, without time to properly digest the food before they fall asleep.

E. What is the Purpose?

One may wonder whether society is so ignorant not to notice how bad all of this is for children's health or whether something more sinister is going on. When one asks questions, e.g. why children are not allowed to put on their coats in class, the typical answer is that they have to get tough. How can one become 'tough' in dealing with the cold? One way is to develop a thick layer of fat under the skin, which may explain why so many people have a 'weight problem'. But the real plot is even more devious. School prepares children for a life as adults in which they have to sit still in air-conditioned offices all day in a state of permanent illness, as that makes it more easy to keep them under control.

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