A rather controversial edict has been made for this years graduating class (and all those following) at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania: drop the weight or we won't allow you to graduate. Those who have a BMI of 30 or over have to take a mandatory course in fitness in order to graduate. If the course isn't taken - the student cannot receive his or her diploma.
There's good and bad to this but more bad than good. And here is why:
A class in fitness. Let's think about that - a mandatory class in how to maintain a healthy body through diet and exercise. How can that be bad? Shouldn't that be as important as reading Jane Austen and doing calculus? Shouldn't part of a well-rounded college degree include human health? Of course!
How come only the fat kids have to participate? Are the thin kids given an automatic pass? The answer is yes. My answer is...why?
Why do we insist in equating "thin" with healthy? Thin kids could be snorting cocaine, binge drinking, starving themselves and chain-smoking but somehow they get a pass on health class because they skate in under the magic number of 30. This makes absolutely no sense at all.
A college graduate with a BMI of 30 probably needs to lose weight, unless he or she is a body-builder or an athlete of some sort where their bodies are heavy with muscle mass (it does appear that this issue is an exception to the rule so a fit body builder with a high BMI will not be deemed too fat to graduate).
But the fast food eating chain- smoker gets to slide by because of that number. What this teaches college kids is that what's on the outside counts. You can be a bit over-weight with no unhealthy habits besides not being able to lose the Freshman 15 and be refused a degree but you can be a chain- smoking alcoholic and allowed to proudly put your cap and gown on. Of course, I don't assume all over-weight people to be non-smoking tee-totalers or having no other bad habits. But "healthy" means how you look to your college administration, apparently, and not your actual physical development and growth.
I'm all for a healthy BMI. I'm all for mandatory health classes in order to graduate. It makes as much (or more) sense as the mandatory arts and science requirements. But solely using a BMI as a measure of physical health is like telling a psychologist you feel fine when asked, and thus being given a clean bill of mental health.
All aspects of "health" need to be studied - not one sole, outward sign. Not only will this teach future generations that health is more than just a number, it will teach them that the notion of physical fitness cannot be gauged by a cursory glance at someone's body type or BMI, and that our behaviors and actions are also a leading indication of our overall health and well-being.
What do you think of Lincoln University's rules for graduation? Do you think it needs to be modified to include all students or should it be for those with a BMI over 30? Do you find yourself equating "thin" with "healthy"?
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