Monday, December 13, 2010

Senior Writing Assignment

For my senior seminar class I had to write a short essay about my learning experiences at HSU. I just spend the last 30 minutes writing it and decided to post it here on the off chance that someone might be interested in it. Post any thoughts on this or your own educational experience in the comments.

 Here's the guidelines for the essay:
"Describe how your learning experiences in kinesiology or recreation administration influenced your future as a professional in your particular focus area or area of interest. Give Examples as to how specific learning experiences (classes, service learning, internships, etc.) facilitated your personal growth."

My future as a professional and my career focus has changed greatly throughout the last four years in HSU's Kinesiology program. My goal of this essay is to explain how and why my career focus has changed, and to expand on the good and bad parts of the program that facilitated my personal growth. Let me be clear, I do not intend to offend or impart disrespect to anyone, these are just my opinions and experiences.

Interest Changes 
My main interest when I originally came to Humboldt was to study Kinesiology, specifically strength and conditioning. My goal was to train athletes in a sports performance facility- work with athletes of all ages and skill levels to improve their performance, decrease injuries, and generally make them better. I was also interested in overall health and possibly working with physique athletes or people who just wanted to look and move better. I spent most of my time researching on my own and doing just enough in school to get A's and B's. As I learned more about sociology, economics, and agriculture, I realized that average health problems were of a much greater global concern than individual sport performance. We spend 2.3 trillion dollars a year on health care, 75% of which goes to treat preventable chronic disease- diabetes, heart disease, obesity, fatty liver, hypertension, cancer etc.

Always being a skeptic, I turned to the actual information sources themselves rather than institutional guidelines and party lines; I started reading journal articles, epidemiological studies, and everything else I could get my hands on. My original bias was to claim exercise was a panacea for all these problems, as was popular in American culture. I blamed lack of willpower to exercise as the cause of these problems.

Unfortunately it turned out I was completely wrong, in more ways than one. The research just didn't support the idea that exercise was the critical factor- it all pointed to nutrition being about 85-90% and exercise/lifestyle making up the rest. In short, I admitted that I was wrong and decided that I could do more good by studying nutrition rather than focusing solely on exercise.

You may notice that I haven't mentioned learning experiences such as “classes, service learning, or internships”. This is because I came to these conclusions through my own research outside of the institutional setting.

The Good 
Tina Manos was the first person I met at HSU, and one of the decisive factors in deciding to come here. Tina did a fantastic job as and advocate for me and my interests and helping me understand exactly what I needed to do at HSU. Although I didn't have her as a teacher till my senior year, I can't overstate the value of office conversations we had in helping me decide my original career path and intentions.

Biology 104 (pre-req for kines major) by Leslie Vandermolen was the first class I had at HSU, and to this day, one of the best. Leslie is an amazing teacher and the class was designed in a way that allowed me to instantly fit each piece of information in to the systems they affected. Great basis for my later classes.

Exercise Physiology with TK was another important class. Although the practical application of the information would come later, the physiology information gave me the basis I needed to understand the biology behind the results. TK's class was taught in a way that worked great for me- great content and no busy work.

Justus Ortega is another excellent teacher although the only class I had from him was Structural Kinesiology. He did a great job of teaching the class, making it interesting, and showing how to apply the information to real life settings.

Rock Braithwaite did a great job teaching Evaluation Techniques. The reason I found this course so valuable was because it gave me the statistical analysis skills to interpret and evaluate the results of studies, research, and journal articles. These are some of the skills that I use on a daily basis.

Pat Hyland in the Human Performance Lab is also a great teacher, the enthusiasm and experience he had really contributed to my learning and skills for interacting with clients.

The facilities of the Kines program are excellent- Human Performance Lab, really great weight room and training facilities.

The Bad 
Overall, my main issue with the Kinesiology program is that the students memorize all kinds of technical information but are severely lacking in the ability to apply that information to a real life situation to get results. For example we are taught all about how to teach exercises but don't learn how write a exercise or nutrition program customized to an individual and their goals. I'm having trouble explaining this correctly, but it seems like sometimes students are missing the forest for the trees. There's a chance that I have this impression because I haven't taken KINS 425 Strength and Conditioning or Exercise Prescription, but it seems slightly backwards to spend only 1 out of 8 semesters on the actual application of the information we learn in the other 7 semesters. Also, the internship is probably the most valuable part of this which I have also not yet done.

In my opinion much of the information we memorize is also irrelevant. I can safely say that I have memorized tons of skills and facts that I will never use in my career, in an attempt to fulfill class requirements. I realize that some students may be entering a clinical practice where they will use the skills, but I think the majority of students would be better served by focusing more on certain areas and less on clinical practices.

Some parts of the kinesiology program have shifted too far towards the direction of “teaching to the test”, and too far away from discussion and truth seeking. Students are taught information from textbooks and from certification tests as if they are indisputable facts. While I realize this is necessary for certain exams HFS, CSCS, etc, many students fail to understand that these sources are not infallible, and that new research is constantly updating or knowledge but these tests and textbooks often lag years behind the best understanding of the information. This is certainly the students responsibility as well, to realize that no source is perfect. I also understand how the difficulties of teaching with larger class sizes and less teachers contribute to this problem.

The nutrition department has been the worst of my classes. Kathy Munoz seems to be much more concerned with maintaining the status quo in nutrition rather than evaluating the evidence and seeking to get to the true nature of human nutrition requirements. There is almost no Socratic discussion whatsoever in any of the nutrition classes (partly due to the online format). The teachings are good in some areas but blatantly wrong in other areas.  This is not an isolated problem, many nutrition courses suffer the same issues, my problem is when there is no discussion or effort to update the curriculum in light of newer research. In the bigger picture this might be a good thing because of how it forced me to really strengthen my research and analysis skills. However, other students are being taught information that is directly unsupported by evidence and that will directly harm their clients in the future. I think this is irresponsible. 

I have greatly enjoyed most of the Kinesiology program. Some of the classes gave me a great basis of information, but for me the main value has been in my interaction with our fantastic professors and lecturers.


  1. I think, this applies to practically all majors at HSU that are not environmental sciences. That is where the majority of the funding goes. Anyhow I found this article on grains and am wondering what you think?

  2. Hi Anonymous-

    Thanks for your comment on the essay. The more people I talk to about what goes on in their majors, the more I realize that these types of practices are the norm. As you say practically all the majors except for a few, and with definite exceptions within each department I'm sure.

    I read the article you posted. Here are some of the things I noticed about it.

    1. The author talks about the supposed benefits of grains such as high vitamin content, satiety, blood sugar control, and fiber content, without providing any sources to back his opinions up. Remember that you can write anything on the internet, it is good to be skeptical. The author doesn't cite a single study or piece of research to substantiate his claims. Frankly, I believe this is because the research does not support this.

    2. I acknowledge that grains due have lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This is true. However, due to a little molecule called phytic acid, all of these important nutrients are chemically bound to the phytic acid in the gut and are mostly unavailable for absorption. Not only this, but when you eat a food containing phytic acid with other foods, it will bind those minerals as well, having a net effect of decreasing the nutrient density of your foods!

    3. The author does nothing to address the huge amount of literature showing that grains are often a causative factor in developing a leaky gut and subsequent autoimmune issues.

    4. The author does nothing to address the inflammation factor of grains- they are a very inflammatory food. Inflammation is now believed to be a root cause of most "diseases of civilization.

    5. If grains are so great, how come none of the healthiest cultures in the world eat them in their unprocessed state? Soaking and fermenting grains neutralizes a large portion of the anti-nutrients, but this is a lot of work, who do you know that actually does this?

    6. A 2007 study showed that 80% of Americans form antibodies when exposed to WGA, a lectin in wheat. I can email you the full text of this study if you wish.

    7. All these nutrients in grains are available from other foods easily and without the drawbacks... why choose an inferior source of nutrients?

    Let me know what you specifically are curious about.



  3. So I just read an article saying that potatoes and eating the seeds of fruit and vegetables is bad. I know that you eat sweet potatoes, Can you eloborate on why? Other than lectins i think i actually understand them.

  4. Ok I read the article. Here's what I would like to point out.

    First off, the paleo idea serves as a framework for evaluating foods, not a hard and fast rule. We use the idea of evolution as one way to evaluate if foods are acceptable, but not the only way. I also look at what healthy cultures have eaten for thousands of years without problems.

    To specify, sweet potatoes and potatoes are in two completely different families, they are not related at all. Sweet potatoes don't have the same chemical defenses that potatoes do. That being said, regular potatoes have sustained cultures healthfully for a long time, and for most people there benefits outweigh their risks.

    I consider potatoes to be a healthy food, unless you are an individual who is very sensitive to plants from the nightshade family.

    Second, I think you misinterpreted what the article was saying about the seeds of fruits and vegetables. Apples are an isolated example, fruits and vegetables are all certainly "paleo" foods.

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