A UNC Textbook Insulted Cancer Patients, Holocaust Victims

“They gave up or felt they were not deserving of being treated better” stated the book on Holocaust survivors while suggesting people “choose cancer or heart disease.”


The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill had actually approved a “fitness class” textbook that stated cancer and heart diseases are chosen by people and implied Holocaust victims died because they were weak.

The textbook, which has now been revised, is sold by Perceivant, an online, interactive coursework publisher and was written by two Brigham Young University faculty members, including Barbara Lockhart, a former Olympic speed-skater.

The online textbook, titled “21st Century Wellness,” includes standard information about nutrition, health and fitness and is read by all undergraduate students for a one-credit hour course, “Lifetime Fitness.” Every year, about 5000 students attend the class which purports to teach them about how to live a healthy lifestyle through positive thinking and sports as opposed to “surgery, drugs, or other means to achieve your desired ends.”

However, the some of the content in the online publication was much less positive and much more disturbing.

Skye Golann, a former student of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who took the class in fall 2017, said he attended the course twice a week. However, he stated the online materials were “beyond bad.”

The book reportedly did not put much stock on genetic and societal factors that affect people’s health, for example good food and lack of health care for disadvantaged people.

“There are many hundreds of research studies that have been published on the health-related benefits of cardiorespiratory fitness and a physically active lifestyle,” one paragraph in the book stated. “Most of these health benefits come in the form of reducing risk of chronic diseases that are both physical and mental in nature. Some experts have begun calling these diseases diseases of choice because how we choose to live, in large part, determines the risk of being diagnosed with disease like heart disease, cancer, dementia, and others.”

He also said the book implied cancer, heart conditions and diabetes were all “diseases of choice.”

“Who doesn’t know someone who is a survivor or someone who died of cancer?” Golann added. “I remember thinking about, reading it — we have a huge cancer hospital less than a mile away.”

Ron Hager, the co-author of the book said much of the content in the book has been taken out of context.

In an email to The News & Observer, Hager said, “I seriously doubt anyone would say they choose cancer or heart disease or type 2 diabetes, etc. But without question, choices can and do have consequences and there is ample evidence of various kinds ... that show certain behaviors within our control can contribute to increased risk of disease, and not at a minuscule level.”

The explanation, rather than rejecting the accusations, actually feeds into the notion that the two authors essentially blame people for their own health woes.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center also demanded the university drop the book from its curriculum because it “insults the memory of Holocaust victims.” The book gave reference to Holocaust survivor and psychotherapist, Viktor Frankl, who explained his ordeal in the Nazi concentration camp and said he found a reason to live even in the worst condition imaginable.

The book put a completely different spin on his experience and interpreted Frankl’s words as “The people in the camps who did not tap into the strength that comes from recognizing their intrinsic worth succumbed to the brutality to which they were subjected. They gave up or felt they were not deserving of being treated better.”

As if “inner strength” could have saved the Holocaust victims from evil Nazis, hell-bent on poisoning them in gas chambers or burning them alive.

In response to this mockery, the Jewish human rights organization’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper said, “Succumbed to brutality? These innocent people were systematically starved, beaten, and worked to death by the Nazis.”

It is a wonder that a textbook filled with such absurd , offensive and dubious knowledge — if it can even be called that — is still being read by the university’s student, regardless of the fact it has been revised. For such insensitive attitudes towards people suffering from crippling, chronic, life-altering diseases and the victims of the Holocaust, this particular textbook should be banned and its authors blacklisted.

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