September 2009 Archives

Is the Doctor Accepting New Patients? Sort Of

Woman-in-a-Waiting-Room-BW.jpg
Harold Graves

I am trying to get my daughter an appointment with a pediatrician for a flu shot. This means I have to find a pediatrician since we just moved to the Eastern Shore. More importantly, I want to give our daughter (us) an opportunity to develop a relationship with a physician with whom she will, hopefully, feel comfortable and with whom she will hopefully maintain a lasting relationship.

I am also looking for a "family practice" doctor or a physician in internal medicine.

I have spent at least 18 hours researching, trying to find background information on various physicians I've discovered. It is virtually impossible to locate information on doctors these days. When you Google any doctor by name, the following sites have taken control of a doctor's background information.

HealthGrades.com
Vitals.com
UCompareHeatlhCare
LinkedIn.com

It seems that these days you may only access information beyond a doctor's name, address, and sometimes education for a fee.

You can obtain some patient ratings for free on RateMDs.com, but my bias is that if a patient's comment seems infused with either complimentary or disparaging statements along with multiple serious grammar and spelling errors, I'm not sure I can trust the recommendation.

I finally contacted a pediatrician I thought might suit our daughter. A woman. A woman of color: Japanese-Irish American. A woman who had been burned as a child and has since dedicated her life to childhood injuries.

"The doctor is no longer taking new patients."

But her partner is. Her partner is white and a woman. I ask to make an appointment for a flu shot for our daughter.

'What is your insurance?' is the first question I am asked.

The Thing-ness of My Child

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Man-Ray-African-Mask-166530.jpgI worry that my daughter's school is too fantastic for its own good. Her teacher is magnetic; she is an elder teacher who has taught Montessori for almost twenty years yet springs with delight at the thought of each new day and each year's introduction to the Great Lessons.

The head of school is dynamic, a woman who loves words and the ways in which they can inspire innovative and compassionate learning. The head of school reads. She shares her reading with her faculty. She reads historical and informational books, about quilting, for example, and she turns the idea and execution of a quilt into a metaphor for working with kids as a community without judgment and with great gratitude for the fortune of the profession.

Each teacher in the school is "friendly" to a degree that makes any normal human feel that they've given their smile muscles away at the toll booth on the bridge. Each teacher is always happy and their fingers never wag with contempt in the face of any child.

But.

Three times in one week a different child announced my daughter's country of birth: to the PE teacher, to other children, to my daughter herself. And each time, other little ones around her put their lips into a perfect circle and emitted loud OOOHs and then they widened their mouths to let out booming WOWs.

And when I asked someone, not yet (and maybe never to be) a friend, Am I wrong to be concerned that the children are so in awe of my African daughter? She said, Yes. Oh, children like new things; they like new and different and interesting things.

And that's just it. And you know what I am about to say. It is this that bothers me: the thing-ness of my child within the walls of what is supposed to be (or become) her (our) school "community." It bothers me that no other child (to my knowledge) is a thing in the same way that our daughter is. That no other human is new and different and interesting in just the same way. And I don't want any child to be 'discovered' in such a way - discovered to be a new and different and interesting thing. Our daughter is these things to these children because their world has been distorted, shrunken to the size of a lentil.

My daughter has entered into the world of these children, which they believe to be real. And it is highly likely that the other world in which my daughter, our family, and 75% of the world's people live will only be entered by them through food, feathers, and dancing - through, in essence, the novelties of 'Others.' And she, our daughter, will learn (is learning) to be in their world. Our task as parents, Mark and I, is to help our daughter see that adults who love their kids as much as we love her created this small place where white children could always feel that their place and position and existence was - problematically - "natural" and "right."

Daily, we help our daughter understand in her words, through her level of conception that the world of white children is just one 'reality'; it is false and disturbed, yet it is a place that is porous allowing for moments of clarity. Inside the world of white children our daughter needs to know that forgiveness is still possible - of each other - but this will truly only be so if these children learn to see themselves as not so alone in a world but instead of a much larger one. And it is this work that belongs to adults.


Photo credit: "Black & White" by Man Ray, 1936

Mommy & Daddy Made Me Stay Home Today!

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C-SPAN / 18:00


There are parents and pundits who criticized Obama's attempt to encourage kids to dream a little and to use school as a way to fulfill those dreams. As many of you know, today, Obama went to Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia and delivered a speech to the nation's school kids. Schools around the country tuned in, and some did not. It was a speech that some parents felt might harm their kids in some way and so they kept them home from school. Some parents were concerned about "bias" in Obama's speech. Bias toward what? Going to school? Did they consider keeping their kids home a radical, political act of resistance? We have to ask, what were you resisting?

Some pundits and parents felt Obama's speech was a "policy speech." If talking about setting educational goals for yourself, believing in yourself, and living out your passions while helping to change the U.S. to be a more compassionate nation is the new U.S. policy, it's one to which more of us should subscribe, no?

In an article on CNN.Politics, one parent was quoted as saying: "Thinking about my kids in school having to listen to that just really upsets me . . . I'm an American. They are Americans, and I don't feel that's OK. I feel very scared to be in this country with our leadership right now." WOW! After actually hearing the speech, this mom from Colorado must be SO incredibly embarrassed. What in the world does being American or not have to do with getting your butt up in the morning, going to school, and engaging in intellectual questions, creativity, and challenge? The parent says knowing her kids will have "to listen to that." "That" to me was about education and if isn't school the place to talk about the challenges of being a kid in school. I think that was the real "that," and thus one of the main points of Obama's speech today.

What did these parents think Obama might say (and weren't their fears quelled by reading the speech which was provided beforehand)? Did they think Obama would use this platform to tout the virtues of socialism? Did they fear he might tell kids the truth about how some parents have been acting at recent health care forums, setting them ablaze with ire and shutting down all hopes of communication? Did they think he'd get up to the Wakefield High School stage and scream out, "You know what, y'all, Republicans suck!"? What in the world did they fear?

Obama asked kids to discover who they want to be as adults and to make those discoveries through school; he asked kids to set some goals, small ones like 'tonight I'll do my homework.' He told kids they won't succeed at everything, but they can accomplish many things. He talked about the initial struggles of J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter. He quoted Michael Jordan. To be quite honest, his speech sounded just like the kind of lectures my aunts, uncles, mother, and father used to give me when I was a kid (and at which, as a child, I sometimes rolled my eyes): "Don't ever give up on yourself." Okay, the part about if you give up on yourself you give up on your country was a bit of patrimony, but it wasn't some grave evil with which he was trying to inculcate our kids. It's not like he encouraged them to get naked and do the nasty right there on C-SPAN.

Will those parents who kept their kids home today be embarrassed some day? Imagine being the kid who has to go to school tomorrow and be the one who was kept home because his mommy and daddy were afraid of Obama's stay-in-school speech. Gee wiz, even Laura Bush shared that she felt Obama's speech was a good idea.

Living with the Undergrads

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We live among four undergrad houses on a dead end block in this small, southern town. The kids had parties four nights in a row. frat+party.jpg

Three hundred people at just one of the parties. One girl tells a Ghanaian basketball player: "Go back to Africa!" Girl is grabbed, boys jump in. Fight Muay Thai. (Bodies probably flew.) Cops called. Citations written - $500 for breaking the noise ordinance. Us in the streets, middle of the night, begging for some sleep. No sleep, groggy days, terrible weekends.

This weekend we hope for better as we had the undergrads over for cardamom immersed brownies and discussed how we might all live in community. As always, as kids always are, they were full of heart, ready to do things differently, and never wanted to leave and return to their own houses down the block. Kids . . . We didn't want them to leave either.

"The Near-Death Experience of Antioch College: A Cautionary Tale"

50.jpgFrom American Association of University Professors' newsletter:

What happens when a university's corporate management betrays the institution's core educational mission; when it abandons its key constituencies; when it hides its intentions and plans; and when it manipulates or withholds essential financial information? The AAUP's investigative report on Antioch University provides disturbing and disheartening answers to these questions.

Antioch College, founded in 1852 in Yellow Springs, Ohio, has had a long history as a pioneer in liberal arts education. Significant innovations, subsequently adopted by many other institutions, have included cooperative education, experiential learning, community governance, recruitment of African American students before and after Brown vs. Board of Education, and the country's first study abroad program. Through good times and bad, Antioch has produced distinguished graduates such as Coretta Scott King, Stephen Jay Gould, and Eleanor Holmes Norton. It has received top rankings among colleges whose graduates go on to complete the PhD as well as continuing recognition in the areas of academic challenge, enriching educational experience, active and collaborative learning, and student-faculty interaction.

The Antioch University administration and board of trustees, in suspending the operations of Antioch College and then closing the institution on June 30, 2008, appears to have decided that the college's rich history of progressive education and its residential liberal arts setting were luxuries that its 21st-century management philosophy could not afford and did not need. Antioch's closure is thus of concern to everyone interested in high quality liberal arts higher education.

The report of the AAUP's investigative committee analyzes the protracted dissolution of Antioch College in the light of the Association's recommended standards for faculty participation in program development, curricular control, budgetary allocation, declaration of financial exigency, and treatment of faculty under such exigency. The report details the gradual deterioration of faculty governance at Antioch through a series of administrative actions over several decades that led ultimately to the closure of the college. Key managerial decisions made by the administration repeatedly disregarded longstanding principles of faculty consultation and shared governance.

Specifically the report reveals that the Antioch University administration:

  • usurped the faculty's responsibilities by mandating a new curriculum that the faculty neither initiated nor approved;
  • failed to consult with the faculty regarding the college's financial condition prior to the declaration of financial exigency and the process by which university administrators and board members had reached that decision;
  • failed to provide faculty members the right to examine or challenge the decisions both to declare financial exigency and to close the college;
  • systematically reduced the flow of budgetary information to the Antioch College faculty and its governance bodies;
  • failed to protect the autonomy of Antioch College and, in fact, significantly undermined it by approving a shift of administrative functions from Antioch College to the university administration without ensuring means for communication or sharing of governance.

During its 156-year history, the college had struggled through many hard times but had been sustained by the strong tradition of its faculty's engagement with enlightened boards, distinguished administrators, eminent alumni, and talented students working together to serve the common good. Fortunately, those devoted to the Antioch tradition have once again taken critical steps toward reopening Antioch College. As announced on June 30, 2009, the governing boards of Antioch University and the college's alumni have reached agreement on opening a new Antioch College, independent of the university. Reopening is anticipated for fall 2011. Antioch College, it seems, will rise again phoenix-like and survive to continue its tradition of progressive education. But its near demise provides clear and eloquent testimony to the havoc wrought by a board and administration that abandoned their commitment to liberal arts education and to the fundamental principles of shared governance.

Gary Rhoades, General Secretary

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