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University revises textbook claiming cancer is ‘a disease of choice’

Bummer, cancer was so much easier to navigate when it was a choice to suffer from it.

A textbook entitled “21st Century Fitness”, which was part of the syllabus for a required online fitness course at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, contained a line saying cancer was “a disease of choice”.

The book also reportedly gave Holocaust victims a serve for not better utilising their inner strength.


Well, the uni made an announcement this month that “21st Century Fitness” had been updated.

“These edits are based on student and department faculty feedback and are part of an ongoing curriculum review process by the Exercise and Sport Science Curriculum Committee,” the statement said.

“Among other changes, the publisher has confirmed that references to the Holocaust and to cancer as ‘a disease of choice’ had already been removed from the fall 2018 edition.”

The edits appear to be the result of some work by a local paper, The News and Observer, which reported in July about the offending lines in the textbook.

“There’s an extreme emphasis on personal responsibility that pretty much explicitly blames people in poor health,” former student Skye Golann told the publication at the time, “which I thought was very problematic.”

Golann said that calling diseases such as cancer and diabetes a choice went too far.

However, the developer of the online course, Christopher Johnson, said it was seeking to inform students about how poor health choices – such as eating poorly or smoking – could lead to being diagnosed with serious diseases.

“Nowhere do we make character judgments,” Johnson said. “In fact, one of the approaches of the book is to really help students understand to build a sense of intrinsic motivation, that they need to get their source of energy and value from within, and not to say, because you’re overweight you’re not a good person…”

“In our society today, the diseases that kill most people — a vast majority are because of people’s behaviors.”

Which, yeah, there’s probably a discussion to be had there – if we ignore all those millions of people struck down with cancer simply because it can also be an indiscriminate bastard of a disease.

About the author

Joe was Junior Vice-President at Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net until it was bought out by Bill Gates. He now subedits for Conversant Media and considers it a step up.

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