Middle America
March 2, 2013

The high cost of health care is sooooo in the news lately. As if this is suddenly some kind of revelation. I saw a headline and a tweet today that claims - as if this is news to anyone in the real world - an ER visit costs more than a month's rent.

No shit, Sherlock. Where have you been for the last 5-10 years (at a minimum), Captain Obvious?

And the answer I've heard repeatedly from well-intentioned, well-off folk with fancy insurance benefits is a saccharine, "Can you really put a price on your health?"

As if that is the end-all, be-all of health care. You SHOULD pay a lot because it's obviously WORTH a lot.

Yet these are the same assholes who think education is over-funded and under-performing. But can you really put a price on education? 

Particularly when we are asking teachers to do more and more with less and less. When we insist they don't need much money because they love what they do and besides, they only work 9 months of the year. (They don't, by the way, only work for 9 months. They just spend 9 months with your kids.)

And with all of that free time, you know, they should take more classes so they can get better at their job. What? Well of course we shouldn't pay for that through taxes. They can pay for it. In fact, they can pay for school supplies, too. I mean, after all, it was their bright idea to need crayons and glue and paper. Ridiculous to make regular people pay for that artsy-fartsy crap.

Back to health care. Don't you know that doctors have even more debt than teachers do? I mean they go to school WAY longer and med school is even more expensive. We SHOULD pay them more so they can pay their debt off faster and then go hit the links.

And you know what else? The days of the old country doctor are over. Maybe back in the late 1800s a doctor could afford to spend some time with a client and really puzzle out what's wrong, but that's only because towns were small and those doctors didn't have good business managers to make this work the American way - show me the money, baby. Screw Grand Junction, Colorado.

No, today, you need a good business manager to make sure that the doctor doesn't spend more than 15 minutes with any one client. There's staff to pay, you know. 


Not all doctors believe this, of course. Not all business managers for doctors are soulless money-grubbers, either.

But what I'm experiencing more and more is exactly those scenarios. Complete disdain for teachers from preschool through university and complete kowtowing to doctors despite their shorter office visits. And the doctors are screwed because they have to kowtow to the insurance "collectives" in their area because no one can afford to go without the health insurance.

So who is running our health care system? First, we have no "system" - we have a chaos of capitalism. Beyond that, as far as I can tell, it's the health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies. And despite noises about how much they give away or provide at a lower cost, it quite often does NOT reach the people it needs to reach.

For example, in 2001, if I had not just received health insurance the previous September, I would not have received the bone marrow transplant I needed. There was no way I could have gathered the money for the 18 day hospital stay, much less any of the treatment. I was damned lucky in 1999 when a semi-retired doctor at a "doc-in-the-box" clinic realized I was not just a little sick again. I was lucky that I was assigned to a compassionate doctor who treated me knowing damn good and well that I would not be able to pay my medical bills. If the 1999 doctor had insisted on payment up front for each treatment, I would have died. I never would have gone in for the next round of chemo. And the bone marrow transplant? They wouldn't even TALK to me at the hospital until they not only found out what insurance I had, but they had spoken with them and made sure that I was covered.

If I hadn't been incredibly lucky, I would be dead right now.

And who is running our education system? 

No one. There is no system for education either. There's a loose conglomerate of state minimums which are a constantly moving target. And even that changes from school system to school system and even smaller, from school to school.

If you know the Meyers-Briggs test, I am an INTJ. I mention this because INTJs are referred to as system builders. I began puzzling out school systems, designing my own, in junior high. How can you balance what needs to happen (learning particular skills, facts or ways of thinking) with developmental stages, with shifting cultural norms, with different styles of learning ... and doing this with a minimum of 30 kids who are diverse and wildly different in an hour?

You sure can't do it through standardized testing of students or teachers. Not even standardized observation of the teacher in the classroom tells a true picture.

When I was in high school, our district had begun this classroom observation crap. What happened is that the best teachers had a "reserve" lesson plan that they practiced at home and whipped out on the day of the observation because they wanted to do well. It was a lesson plan that hit everything they were to be evaluated on.

You know what the shitty teachers did? The same bullshit they did every day except they weren't blatantly rude to us.

So it disrupted the learning process in classes with good teachers, with conscientious and diligent teachers, the ones who were creative and effective ... and did not a damn thing in the other classrooms.

You cannot actually standardize good teaching.

There are some shitty teachers out there. I can rattle off name after name in my own experience. But I can also rattle off a bunch who truly cared, who were good, who tried. Some of them I didn't mesh with, but they were still good teachers. Mrs. Scarr was a darn good government teacher, but she and I clashed more than once and quite frankly, she was a jackass to me. But her teaching was good even if her "bedside manner," so to speak, was not. Mrs. Deterly, on the other hand, was both a jackass and a horrible teacher. I know from extremely painful experience that whilst some of my students loved my class (inasmuch as they're going to love a required freshmen writing class), but some of them consider me a Mrs. Scarr or worse, a Mrs. Deterly and they never even saw the effort I put into making that class helpful, valuable and fun. (And yes, thanks for noticing. I did NOT use the Oxford comma there because I find it ridiculously unnecessary - so maybe that did make me a horrible writing teacher after all.)

And I think that much of our current attitude toward teachers comes from people remembering their worst teachers and forgetting the good ones. I think we're letting the bad experiences overshadow the good so much that as a culture, we're painting an entire profession with tar and feathers.

Despite being a system builder, I don't have all the answers to either health care or education.

But I do know that it's time to stop tearing each other apart. It's time to stop blaming doctors for being money-grubbers and teachers for being idiots.

I truly believe that if we continue to go down the path that we are on, continue to tear each other to shreds, continue to believe only "X is right and if you don't like it, you can leave" ... 

if we continue to divide ourselves into smaller and smaller camps, we will implode every bit as much as the Soviet Union did.

Democracy should not be about Republican or Democrat. It should not be Tea Party extremism. 

We should be working together to find the compromises that we hate the least. And the more we work together to find those compromises, the less we'll hate them.

And the more we stand our ground and insist on getting exactly what we want...

...well, the more divided we'll become.

United we stand

Divided we fall.

It really is as easy as that. Let's please, please find ways to work together. To take responsibility for things larger than our selves, to agree to take on responsibility for each other without turning everything into an us and them situation.

Let's find some middle ground again and build outward from there.

Posted by Red Monkey at March 2, 2013 10:02 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

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