Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder whose victims restrict their food intake, literally starving themselves to death in their effort to pursue thinness. Without medical treatment, anorexia can result in death, as body functions simply shut down.

The causes of anorexia are complex. But researchers believe that media portrayals of thinness as the ideal body shape are one contributing factor.

Personally, I see an eerie similarity between insidious media portrayals of skinny people as beautiful people, and on-going media discourse in some circles about lean school districts as better school districts.

I’m talking about all those people who see the public education system as being “too fat,” padded with hidden cash reserves and budgets that could be trimmed yet again if only “waste” were eliminated. Some of those same people advocate the continued starvation of the public school system in the form of withholding new revenues.

Meanwhile, just like a person with anorexia, the school district is suffering from serious damage to its core functions (read: teaching the kids), as funding continues to decline, year after year.

In most cases of anorexia, “fixing” the problem is more complicated than just getting the person to eat more or to eat again. Similarly, just giving money back to schools at this point isn’t going to undo the damage that has been done.

For example, take the San Diego Unified’s beloved Off-Campus Integrated Learning Experiences (OCILE) program, which was shut down in June. Depending on how long the program is out of operation, just getting the funds back won’t revive the program in its former condition. Personnel have (hopefully) found other jobs; essential knowledge about program content and operations has been lost, perhaps forever.

Like an anorexia patient trying to recover, a cash-starved school district needs proper nutrition (read: funding), careful nurturing (read: teachers), qualified expert supervision (read: administrators) and a community of supporters.

What the anorexic school district does not need on its road to eventual recovery is more people telling it that it’s too darn fat.

Bey-Ling Sha lives in San Carlos.

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