Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Can You Imagine How Upset People Would Be If the Poor Didn't Have Access to High Quality Health Care?

MaryEllen McGuire:

Imagine for a moment that you are driving your child to the hospital. She has a high fever and is suffering from severe abdominal pain. It's unclear what's wrong but she is in definite need of medical attention.

Now imagine that the only doctor on call is a recently graduated medical student. It's her first day on the job and there is no experienced physician or surgeon available for consultation. Are you satisfied with this level of care for your child? I wouldn't be. I'd want to benefit from the knowledge of a more experienced physician. Wouldn't you?

Unfortunately, a similar scenario is playing out in America's urban classrooms with shocking regularity. Teachers with the least experience are educating the most disadvantaged students in the highest poverty, most challenging schools. Low-income kids are being "triaged" not by experienced teachers, but by those with fewer than three years of teaching to go on.

If you're poor, uninsured, an immigrant, perhaps a member of a minority group, you're going to be happy to (have a car and) have any doctor look at your kid.

Its not like American society is equitable everywhere except education.

1 comment:

Nancy Flanagan said...

Extending the analogy, I would not be confident about the level of care, even if the new doc graduated summa cum laude from Harvard Medical. I'd feel much better if an experienced attending physician was standing by, willing to step in or offer a veteran's perspective. As in "hey, I've seen this before--and here's what you're probably looking at, and what you need to try." I'd have more faith in the experienced doctor, even if she graduated from NoName State University.

Putting new graduates of prestigious colleges into high-needs schools assuages the guilt of those who see inequity but don't want to make the investment in systemic change. It substitutes a meritocracy argument for genuine equity.

What if handpicked "Teaching Fellows" from Ivy League schools took the place of veteran teachers in stable, successful schools, allowing the experienced teachers to work in high-needs districts for two years? What percentage of the Fellows might continue in those low-prestige teaching jobs? Would 40% of the graduating class of Yale apply? (and why not?) Isn't there something vaguely unethical about building your resume while working with the most disadvantaged people, in any field? I guess that's not the way the world works.