In my last column, I expressed my general frustration with UNC’s course requirement system, that cruel plague threatening to overthrow our education in favor of mindless, rote box-checking.
Building off this theme, I would like to address specifically the lifetime fitness requirement, a particularly onerous component of our curriculum.
I can already hear many saying, “But Olivia, lifetime fitness promotes physical fitness and teaches us healthy habits. There’s nothing wrong with a little exercise.”
And to those people I say yes, indeed — if you personally enjoy taking LFIT classes as inspiration for healthy living, please be my guest.
What I do take issue with is everyone’s mandatory conscription into the LFIT department, whether we like it or not.
The purpose of universities is to challenge us intellectually, teach us how to think for ourselves and allow us to gain at least some degree of expertise in a chosen discipline.
But for some reason, American universities seem intent on treating their students as children in need of constant prodding, not as adults seeking higher education.
Illogically, the lifetime fitness classes aim to instill in us a “lifetime” commitment to health upon the completion of a one-semester walking class. We are told that this is for our own good, to improve our physical fitness, and we have to accept it.
But more than simply a senseless attempt to combat the obesity “epidemic” through about 32 hours of exercise total, the lifetime fitness requirement is an obvious example of the degree to which American students are denied their proper share of adulthood.
Telling me that I am unable to monitor my own health at the age of 20 is akin to telling me that I am not really an adult, that I have more to learn before I can be trusted to handle my own life.
It means that an undergraduate degree is no more about pursuing an academic field than it is about learning elementary school-level health concepts. Most importantly, I am effectively denied autonomy over my own body.
Unfortunately, this privacy invasion is incredibly common in American universities.
Sharing rooms denies us any sort of real privacy; like students in a boarding school, we are expected to sleep side-by-side and forced to give up the level of personal space that adults are assumed to need.
In the same way, America’s war on underage drinking is no more than a misguided attempt to treat adults as children; again, our bodies are not our own, because even a drop of alcohol makes us technically guilty.
While exercise is certainly necessary for a healthy lifestyle, a childish fitness requirement is an unfortunate testament to American universities’ unwillingness to cede parental control over their students.
We legally become adults at 18, and as adults we should have the right to run twice a week or not, to share a room or live singly, to drink a beer or teetotal.
Either way, I expect UNC to give me a high-level understanding of English literature, not a mindless series of laps around a track.
Olivia Blanchard is an English major from Atlanta, GA. E-mail her at email@example.com
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