Thursday, June 16, 2016

Barriers To Actual Education

I was at my doctor's office yesterday for a routine visit. He's a good man, busy, but always takes time during our appointments to chat about life. At one point, while discussing his role in prescribing medicine, he said, "It's frustrating. I don't like the box they try to put me in," referring the what I've always considered a bizarre intersection between doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance carriers.

This lead to a general discussion about how indefensible it is that so much of America's health care system is based upon the for-profit model where we are forced to rely on people who are in it for the money. The goal of health care after all is good health, but the goal of the for-profit model is profit: two objectives that are often in direct opposition to one another. For instance, for pharmaceutical companies it is often far more profitable to manufacture drugs that are designed to be taken on a daily schedule to control symptoms over a patient's lifetime than it is to actually cure an illness which would then lose the company a customer. For a health insurance company it is logically more profitable to deny coverage for treatments than it is to actually pay for them. Their profit motive stands as a barrier to actual health.

I find myself making the same arguments about education, a process that is increasingly being taken over by companies primarily concerned with turning a buck. The goal of education is education, but the corporate entities that have the ears of our policy makers, those companies that manufacture text books and tests and curricula and tablets and computers and other classroom supplies are in it for the money. Their primary goal is not to educate children, but rather to persuade those who control the purse strings to purchase their product, which they do through lobbying, strong arming, marketing, and straight-out lying, not to mention the snake oil of charter schools. These "education" corporations have been the darlings of Wall Street for most of my daughter's lifetime. And just like with health care, their profit motive stands as a barrier to actual education.

The sickest part is that even if these corporations somehow decided that they wanted to first and foremost provide good health or education, their stockholders would have legal standing to sue them because, by law, their management must place profit above everything else.

I have no problem with the so-called free market when it comes to selling television sets and washing machines, non-essential tools of entertainment or convenience that I can choose to do without, but when it comes to essentials like health and education (and food and water for that matter) the profit-motive leaves doctors and teachers in the position of having to do our jobs "inside the cracks" because the system itself is not necessarily set up to provide health or education.

The wonder is that health and education happen at all.

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1 comment:

Heidi said...

Education happens because of many dedicated teachers and parents like you.