Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Basic needs

Lorcan, over on Plain in the City, recently posted about the distribution of basic needs in the world, and the radio has been talking about the cutbacks in Tennessee's health care program for folks without commercial health insurance. And I've been thinking about those basic needs: healthcare, shelter, food, and education. And their interrelation: healthcare, shelter, and food are easier to obtain with an education, but an education is very difficult to obtain if you're lacking any of the others.

And how do we allocate these? New houses sometimes top 4,000 square feet apiece in vast developments of nearly identical houses. My husband and I live in an apartment of under 800 square feet, and some folks live in storage spaces of 75 feet, or in even less. Healthcare ranges from toughing it out for those who can't afford anything else (or who know they will be humiliated if they seek care) to folks who demand immediate care for minor ailments. And of course, the things that allow us to take care of our health in the first place cost money, nutritious food, exercise facilities, preventative care. And what sort of food is available? There are few people starving in the US anymore, but there is an epidemic of poor nutrition for people without the time or access to cook from basic ingredients, so convenience foods predominate in diets.

And then the one near and dear to my heart: education. I used to teach Head Start. And before that, I was a student, one who was initially labelled as mentally retarded. My mother was told that I'd never learn to read or write, and would have difficulty mastering basic tasks of daily living. That fall, I changed schools, and was lucky enough to have a very alert teacher. She asked me how I came to school, hoping I could tell her that I came on a bus. Instead, I gave her the 4-part miniseries about exactly where the bus stop was, the exact route the bus took, and interesting things to see along the way. I'd taken the trip maybe a couple times by then, and she called Mom, asking for permission to have me tested, because my permanent record didn't match the child in her classroom.

That notation was still there, by the way, when I graduated from high school. I know, because when the principal was adding in the notation on my having won some award or another, he happened to read back, and was so astonished that he burst into the conversation I was having with the school nurse to express his astonishment that I was listed as retarded. Today, I don't know if I would be listed as profoundly gifted (the new term for folks more than 2 standard deviations above the mean) or as ADD, since I learn things so quickly that I become bored at the "average" pace and stop paying attention.

And I wonder sometimes what would have happened, what kind of life I'd have had, if that mistake had gone uncaught, as I suspect it does all too often. How many children are convinced that they *can't* learn, when no attempt has been made to teach them? Or when they've been so bored that they tune out school entirely, what then?


Blogger Lorcan said...

Oh yes... I had to deal with the whole ADHD... "Lorcan is thick as nails... " bit, did horribly in school... it took working in the real world to wake me up to the fact that I only learned differently, taught myself how to learn... went back to college, got into the 3rd best law school in the US... so... well, when, for example I see Friends schools segrigating on "ability to learn" I think how little we have advanced in our understanding...
Ah my...

6/22/2006 5:23 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

After they caught on that I could learn, I kept getting comments on my report cards about how I didn't pay attention and didn't give much effort. And after a bit, I realized that they would "punish" me by holding me in for recess in the library, so I would fail to turn in homework and pay no attention in class. I liked the librarian and she liked me, so that's how I got most of my actual education in that school. I got into the big name university I attended mostly in spite of my schooling prior to that.

6/22/2006 6:24 AM  
Blogger Little Black Car said...

Ditto. Asperger's Syndrome, lousy high school grades, but I got even by getting high SAT's and early acceptance to the University of Chicago, which I didn't accept but it sure felt good. I have terrific parents.

There was a long bit on PBS news last night about raising the minimum wage, which hasn't changed in nine years. Ted Kennedy was pushing to get it raised to $7 something over three years, which is both a good thing and a joke. It's better than $5.15 an hour, but I don't know how anyone thinks that $7.15 an hour will get anyone out of poverty. Which is not to say that I'm not glad Kennedy was pushing it, only that it's not enough and I think Kennedy is one of those guys that people don't listen to any more ("Oh, man--him again . . .?").

I don't pretend to think that national health care would be a perfect fix, but it would sure make it easier for small businesses to pay a little better if they weren't being sucked dry trying to help employees with health benefits. My insurance is paid in full by my employer (a large medical complex) since I'm the only one on it, but when I was paying my own it was almost $200 a month for a perfectly healthy 20-something. Insane. The one time I used it (consultation and 6 pills) it still cost me $90 out of pocket. A full day's wages at the time in addition to the half-day I lost when I had to take off work to go in.

6/22/2006 8:23 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

When Dr. Alan Bergman was head of the Brain Injury Association of America, he used to say that every child deserves an IEP, and of course, he's right, but the needs of children are unfortunately easy to ignore.

We really need to be looking at the wage disparities in this country, and looking hard. While pay for the top few has skyrocketed, pay for everyone else has remained stagnant or dropped. That just is not working.

As for health care, the one argument that always makes me see red is the "rationing" one. We've already got healthcare rationing, and not a sensible one at that. People without money go untreated for serious ailments, while people with money get treated for wrinkles and ugly toenails. Frankly, the dual system in the UK has its problems, but at least they don't seem to have the problem with TB that is coming back in the States.

And if physical healthcare is poorly distributed, mental healthcare is a wreck.

6/22/2006 3:10 PM  

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