Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Go Directly to Jail: Do Not Pass Go, But Do Collect Healthcare

This is kind of one of those “WTF” stories about which I feel compelled to comment:

Before I begin, I should note that this happened several months ago, but, akin to my obsession with Mad Men or love affair with Miley Cyrus, I am a little behind the times on current events and trends. I am, however, TOTALLY up-to-date on aimless internet browsing, which is how I found about about this.

To continue, this past June, in North Carolina, James Richard Verone planned and executed a $1 bank robbery with the intention that he would be incarcerated.  Laid-off from his job of 17 years, suffering from chronic pain, unable to afford healthcare, and denied disability insurance, Verone planned his imprisonment so that he might finally be able to obtain much-needed healthcare that had been denied to him through traditional means.  

In this country, we are loathe to view healthcare as a basic human right.  In fact, we are the only industrialized nation that does not have a universal healthcare system.  This is due, in large part, to  a market culture which views healthcare as a commodity—something which is bought and sold, can accrue profit,  and the cost of which is determined by basic laws of supply and demand, however manipulated those are.   Through Verone’s case, one sees that the only way to access healthcare as a right in this country is to become part of the penal system.   Let me just say, I find it deeply ironic and symptomatic of an unjust society that a citizen gains rights by virtue of being a prisoner. Yet this is the trajectory America has been on for many years, as social welfare, which, by definition, ensures the dignity and well-being of persons, has all-but collapsed (or, as in the case of healthcare, was never properly developed in the first place).  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Emotional Demand of Teaching

In his recent NY Times op-ed, “In Honor of Teachers,” Charles M. Blow addresses why so few people enter the teaching profession and why, of those that do, half leave within the first five years. In response to his own inquiry, he reveals the many arduous (though often ignored) demands on teachers: poor working conditions, long hours hours, less pay, lack of professional credibility. Importantly, he poses the following question which gets to the heart of the issue: do we expect to entice the best and brightest to become teachers when we keep tearing the profession down? We take the people who so desperately want to make a difference that they enter a field where they know that they’ll be overworked and underpaid, and we scapegoat them as the cause of a societywide failure.

I'm sure by now you all can hear my pseudo-beatnik-agreement-snapping from wherever you are in the country (hopefully you are doing the same but with more style). This article got me thinking, however, about an under-reported difficulty of teaching not addressed here: emotional stress. I think that it is this stress, as much as the issues enumerated above, which contributes to high teacher burnout and turnover.

I present here two problems which most represent the high emotional demands on teachers: