Friday, May 13, 2011

Higher Ed & Healthcare

Two issues that I've become increasingly interested in and vocal about are the state of higher education in America and the state of healthcare in America.

As a 7th-year student of higher ed (through two bachelors programs and smack dab in the middle of my second masters program), I feel I'm an expert on the student side of things. And as an administrative worker at a large public university, I feel like I'm reasonably well-informed on the other side of the fence too (I probably know more about the tenure process than some current faculty do). Speaking from my somewhat narrow experience at this one large public university I've attended and worked at, it seems that I can reasonably generalize that at every level of higher education there are some severe problems that will likely lead to a significant downward spiral in terms of the quality, affordability, and sustainability of higher education in America. (Some are saying the spiral is already happening and that there's no quick fix available.)

I recently read the following Nation article, which presents a number of the problems that higher ed has been having and also gives a good summary of recent (shocking) news of the budget cuts and the extreme measures that some universities have been taking.

Faulty Towers: The Crisis in Higher Education
By: William Deresiewicz

The article was actually emailed out to the department I work in by a fairly prestigious tenured professor, who, by simply sending out the piece, was doing his part to increase awareness of the problems that graduate students and professors face (especially those in the humanities). It is a long read, but well worth the effort (even though it only marginally addresses student loan debt, which is a major issue that can essentially debilitate students who cannot find proper employment, and even many of those who can find proper employment).

Secondly (and not entirely unrelated; both problems are directly related to the upper echelons of society screwing over the lower classes), today a friend of a friend on Facebook posted an excellent essay he wrote on the state of healthcare in America:

Fire, Feces, and Healthcare
By: Reg Darling

I think everyone in America should read this. It artfully presents a view I've formed of American healthcare: How can we reasonably enjoy life and liberty and pursue happiness in America if at any moment all of our financial security could be swept away by one unpredictable disease? I've had enough personal experiences and I've read enough of other people's personal experiences to know that American healthcare can completely debilitate people. For rich politicians to insinuate that universal healthcare is socialism or that it is tantamount to enslaving physicians makes me really concerned that American capitalism, which in many respects has enriched humanity, has ultimately left Americans as greedy opportunists who feel no empathy for their compatriots.

I personally would jump at the chance to pay higher taxes so that anyone in a medical emergency or anyone with a disease whose treatments or medications are now not financially feasible could receive healthcare free of charge. A friend of mine complains that it's not fair if he (as a healthy person who takes care of himself) would have to pay taxes into universal healthcare so that his fellow cheeseburger-loving, pack-a-day smoking Americans, could reap all the benefits of his (my friend's) hard work. I say (like the link above) that it's simply the cost of living in a civilized society. And the healthier the people around you, the healthier you are. It's something that's been scientifically proven in various arenas. (Sorry that I do not have the proper citations here. If you're interested, maybe start with this: Happiness Is 'Infectious'.)

It's all too easy to ignore these problems when they're not directly affecting us. But, in a way, by affecting our fellow Americans on a daily basis, these issues are indirectly affecting us on a daily basis. Food for thought.

No comments:

Post a Comment