Wikimedia Commons
Wiki­media Commons

Classes around here tend to transform people. Gaetano’s Renais­sance can change a major; Jackson’s Dos­to­evsky can change a mind; Smith’s Great Books can change a life.

Physical Wellness Dynamics can wreck a morning.

Our time at Hillsdale is too short. When each passing day increas­ingly feels like another tick of a time bomb, there’s a colossal oppor­tunity cost for every course we take. It’s nothing short of calamitous to have to spend three priceless hours a week sitting through Physical Wellness class. Hillsdale should remove Physical Wellness Dynamics from the core cur­riculum so stu­dents don’t waste pre­cious credit hours and money on a class that isn’t in the nature of the liberal arts or a Hillsdale edu­cation.

Physical Wellness offers stu­dents a series of lec­tures on New York Times Health articles regarding healthy blood pressure, how to avoid dia­betes, and other mildly useful fac­toids. I recently took Physical Wellness. The class taught me some inter­esting things, got me into the gym to exercise, intro­duced me to various oppor­tu­nities around campus — like the bike paths at Hayden Park and the wall‑e ball court in the sports complex — and was even enjoyable at times.

Clearly, my expe­rience wasn’t abom­inable. Nev­er­theless, nothing about it was nec­essary to my liberal-arts edu­cation. The class was merely a series of facts about neu­ro­plas­ticity and the ben­efits of exercise on the brain with a few Aris­totle quotes thrown in. Dressing those facts up with a little Plato on how “lack of activity destroys the good con­dition of every human being” failed to make the time spent in class essential to my edu­cation as a free human being.

If I hadn’t had to take Physical Wellness, I would have taken Anglo-Saxon Lit­er­ature, Artes Lib­erales, or Ancient Phi­losophy. Any one of those classes would have better edu­cated me for life. Let me be clear: while we probably should take a break from Aris­totle once in a while to go work out (and many of us do), that’s a vastly dif­ferent thing from taking a class that forces us to create Power Point pre­sen­ta­tions on brain-derived neu­rotrophic factor and the ben­efits of sleep instead of reading our Dante and Hei­degger.

All stu­dents in the class are required to read John J. Ratey’s book “Spark: The Rev­o­lu­tionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” because of what it says about the effects of aerobic exercise on brain health and aca­demic per­for­mance. Indeed, it is useful to know a little bit more about how to have a healthy mind. Perhaps the book could be assigned summer reading, with a required quiz; perhaps the knowledge could be offered in a CCA-length seminar. But it doesn’t deserve a full-fledged 2‑credit course.

At many other schools, with Physical Wellness Dynamics would be an acceptable class. In fact, other than the few well-placed Aris­totle quotes, it looks exactly like a class you could take at any other school — and that’s not a good thing.

While physical wellness is part of the good life and essential for the truly free man, Physical Wellness Dynamics is not. Let’s acknowledge Hillsdale stu­dents to be as smart as they deserve and not force them to miss out on excep­tional Hills­dalian courses by making them take a class like Physical Wellness Dynamics.


Tausz is a senior studying English and jour­nalism.