Update: Shortly after this post was published, UNC announced late today that the book’s offending passages have been removed from the coming 2018 Fall edition about to be released.
An online textbook on health and wellness, 21st Century Wellness, which is one choice among several in a course that UNC-Chapel Hill has mandated its students take, has ignited a major controversy both on the campus and with various groups across the country. Particularly disconcerting to the Jewish community is the proposition that many Jews might have saved themselves or their families from dying in the Holocaust had they called upon their “inner strengths.” The second absurdity to me as a physician is that cancer is a preventable disease.
The authors suggest that Holocaust victims are partially the ones to blame because they failed the self-discipline to use their inner strengths as if this were some form of a mental malaise. I wonder how my relatives who were put onto a train, not knowing where they were going and then prodded by armed guard to hurry and take a “shower,” might have looked to their inner strength to intuit and prevent what was to come. Endowment for Middle East Truth and an Israel education group, StandWithUs, with which Voice4Israel partners, both publicly condemned the book. Jennifer Dekel, EMET’s director of research and communications states: “The book …serves to brainwash our youth into believing a dangerous fallacy that glosses over the horrors of the Holocaust and invokes the twisted ideas of Holocaust deniers.” Roz Rothstein, StandWithUs co-founder, said: “Explain how ‘intrinsic worth’ is supposed to keep someone alive who has been tortured, shot, gassed, or starved.”
Both organizations have asked UNC to immediately drop the textbook from its curriculum and apologize to its Jewish students.
The textbook also claims that cancer is a “disease of choice.” Some of the ways we live today without question increase the chances we might develop cancer. Smoking of cigarettes greatly enhances the development of lung cancer. But the word “cancer” is generic for over a hundred type of neoplasms. Most, like pancreatic cancer, have no known nor suspected cause. Suggesting that cancer is a disease of choice might by analogy be applied equally to driving and dying in an accident. Driving recklessly certainly heightens the chance of accident and death. Driving sensibly lowers the chance, but not completely. Another driver may hit you. Personal responsibility is important for every person to think about, but the authors’ statements far exceed what is judicious and wise.
As others indicate, the University administration should take more responsibility about what it requires of its students. We can all think of many more books that would provide far more complete and accurate information. Hiding behind promoting “academic freedom” disrespects both students and the administration’s oversight role for its coursework.
Bio: Dr. Stanley Robboy is a board member of Voice4Israel and a professor of pathology and also obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Medical Center.
NC Hillel denounces offensive UNC textbook
NC Hill responded to blaming the holocaust, in part, on it victims, by stating, “This message defames the memory of those who died at the Nazis’ hands and should not be part of any curriculum on our campus. We are concerned about an academic review process that would allow for this narrative to be included in UNC’s educational materials and are actively working with UNC administrators to ensure this type of defamatory and inflammatory language is not taught at any programs at our university.”
Contact Voice4Israel if you are as student, professor, or someone else with information on this situation.