Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Health Politics: This is just ridiculous

Anyone who's known me for more than 5 minutes will attest to my strong belief in the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. However, there's one thing I believe in above that, above all else. There is one fundamental belief on which all my other beliefs are based: the belief in the complete and ultimate freedom of the individual. The freedom to live one's own life however one wishes, including how one treats one's own physical body.

That is why this absolutely infuriates me.

First of all, college is about academics, not physical fitness. It's wonderful that colleges have gyms available for students to use, but that's not why most of them are there. For me, my choice to attend Western State was influenced by its location in a place where I can climb, snowboard, and engage in plenty of other outdoor activities, but if playing outside was all I cared about, I wouldn't be paying a couple thousand dollars and taking challenging classes. Secondly, singling out overweight and obese individuals for a particular class is discriminatory. Lastly, the idea of a government-funded institution (as per the article linked above, Lincoln University is a private school but receives money from the government) actually forcing a particular lifestyle on adults is nothing short of socialism.

I'm in college so I can someday become a geologist. Despite being a healthy and fit individual, being forced to take a Phys Ed class would be detrimental to my studies. At Western State, one has to pay an extra fee to take more than 18 credit hours per semester. Thus, any fitness class taken for any amount of credit could potentially prevent me from being able to take a class that I want or need. On a related note, I'd like to say that I absolutely support Phys Ed requirements in high schools. The fundamental difference between college and high school is that college students are adults and capable of making their own lifestyle choices, no matter how beneficial or poor said choices might be.

One of the rebuttals to this argument is that colleges have General Education requirements that force students to take classes that are unnecessary for their major or career path. And I counter that argument with the statement that college, while focused on preparing students for careers in various fields, also serves to produce well-rounded individuals with a functional understanding of the world.

I work out 5-6 days a week by choice. I use the fitness equipment (treadmills, freeweights, bench press, bouldering wall) provided in my school's gym by choice. I choose to be picky about what foods I put in my body. Living a sedentary lifestyle is a choice. Eating twinkies and potato chips is a choice. Grown men and women don't need a government to make their lifestyle choices for them.

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